Synthesis of recyclable, chemically cross-linked, high toughness, high conductivity ion gels by sequential triblock copolymer self-assembly and disulfide bond cross-linking†
In this article, we report the synthesis of a disulfide bonded reversibly chemically cross-linked ion gel with high toughness and conductivity by sequential triblock copolymer self-assembly and the subsequent oxidation of thiol groups. Through reversible thiol-disulfide exchange, the ion gels had both high toughness of chemicals and recyclability of physical cross-linked ion gels. The triblock copolymer (SOS-SH) was prepared as follows: first, the RAFT copolymerization of styrene and 4-vinylbenzyl chloride (VBC) using CTA–PEO–CTA as a bi-functional macroRAFT agent was performed to obtain a triblock copolymer (SOS-Cl); then, the chloride group of SOS-Cl was replaced by an azido group to obtain SOS-N3; and finally, the click reaction of SOS-N3 with O-ethyl-S-prop-2-ynyl carbonodithioate and subsequent aminolysis were conducted to obtain SOS-SH. The disulfide bonded reversibly chemically cross-linked ion gel could be re-dissolved when mixed with a little amount of mild reducing agent (e.g., DTT) in CH2Cl2 with vigorous stirring, which reformed again after the removal of solvent and oxidation of thiol groups. The ion gels could undergo the reduction–oxidation cycle at least twice with a little loss of ionic conductivity and toughness (less than 25%), exhibiting good recyclability. Raman measurements were performed to confirm the existence and the key role of disulfide bond on the recyclability.