How Temperature Affects Elastomer Seals

Illustration of thermometers

When shopping for elastomer seals, you should consider the temperature range to which they will be exposed.

Elastomer seals offer an effective, long-lasting solution to prevent leaks. They are characterized by their elastomeric construction, meaning they are made of a polymer with elastic properties. You can find elastomer lip seals, o-rings, shaft seals, gaskets and more. While effective at preventing leaks, though, elastomer seals aren’t immune to the effects of extreme temperatures.

The Effects of Cold Temperatures

When exposed to cold temperatures, elastomer seals may shrink. Elastomer seals will become smaller, which may allow pressurized liquid or gas to escape.

In addition to shrinking, elastomer seals may become harder and more brittle. Cold temperatures can change the physical properties of elastomers and seals made of elastomers. Rather than feeling soft and spongey, elastomer seals will feel hard and brittle when heated.

The Effects of Hot Temperatures

Hot temperatures may cause elastomer seals to become larger. As an elastomer seal heats up, it will expand. This thermal expansion will increase the size of the elastomer seal.

Hot temperatures can also reduce the elasticity of elastomer seals. All elastomer seals are elastic. They are made of an elastomer, such as natural or synthetic rubber, so they are inherently elastic. Repeated exposure to hot temperatures, however, can result in a lower level of elasticity.

Like with cold temperatures, hot temperatures can make elastomer seals feel harder. The elastomer seals will become harder and less elastic.

Choosing the Right Elastomer Seals

There are elastomer seals that can withstand the effects of extreme temperatures. Silicone and fluoro-silicone rubber seals, for instance, offer excellent high and low temperature stability. You can use them to seal both cold and hot mating surfaces without fear of them leaking.

For sealing applications involving extreme heat, you may want to choose fluorocarbon seals. They are rated for temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. In addition to their superior heat-resistance properties, fluorocarbon seals are resistant to abrasion, oil and chemicals.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a popular choice of seal material for hot and cold sealing applications. It can withstand temperatures as low as minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

In Conclusion

Elastomer seals play a crucial role in protecting against leaks. Exposure to hot or cold temperatures, though, can affect their properties. You can still use them in sealing applications where they will be exposed to extreme temperatures, but you should choose elastomer seals made of the right material.

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