Recyclable thermoset shape memory polymers with high stress and energy output via facile UV-curing†
Engineering applications of current thermoset shape memory polymers are limited by three critical issues: demanding fabrication conditions (from 70 to 300 °C temperatures for hours or days), lack of reprocessability or recyclability, and low recovery stress and energy output. To address these problems simultaneously, a new UV curable and vitrimer-based epoxy thermoset shape memory polymer (VSMP) has been synthesized. A 1.1 mm thick VSMP film can be readily cured at room temperature under UV-irradiation (61 mW cm−2) in just 80 s. It possesses 36.7 MPa tensile strength, 230 MPa compressive strength, and 3120 MPa modulus at room temperature. It still has a compressive strength of 187 MPa at 120 °C. The covalent adaptable network (CAN) imparts the VSMP with recyclability, as reflected by two effective recycling cycles (>60% recycling efficiency). In addition, the VSMP exhibits good shape memory properties for multiple shape recovery cycles. With 20% compression programming strain, up to 13.4 MPa stable recovery stress and 1.05 MJ m−3 energy output in the rubbery state are achieved. With good mechanical strength, thermal stability, recyclability, and excellent shape memory properties combined with in situ UV-curing capabilities, the new VSMP is a promising multifunctional thermoset for engineering applications.