The various materials used to make a head gasket need to have a number of properties that will allow the gasket to function at very high temperatures and with a tolerance for the extreme pressures of the engine. The head gasket also needs to be able to be resistant to air oil and coolant at varying temperatures and have no reaction to any chemicals found within the engine.
Every different engine design requires a unique head gasket that needs to meet the performance requirements of the engine. Millions are spent every year in the research and development of head gaskets and the materials they are comprised of, as manufacturers continually try to find more efficient ways to stop the overheating of a combustion engine. Much of this budget is spent on the testing of the durability of materials under extreme temperatures to ensure a seal can be maintained under these conditions.
Years of testing have shown that there are a number of materials that can be used to create a suitable head gasket. Stainless steel is a very common material used for head gaskets although graphite and fibre based materials are just as popular.
Due to advances in modern head gasket research, chemically created compositions such as silicone, neoprene and polymetric resins have started to emerge as alternatives to the more traditional materials used. These new synthetic compounds are not only able to withstand the extreme temperatures but have an overall cheaper manufacture cost.