Dual-dynamic interpenetrated networks tuned through macromolecular architecture†
Recent progress on stretchable, tough dual-dynamic polymer single networks (SN) and interpenetrated networks (IPN) has broadened the potential applications of dynamic polymers. However, the impact of macromolecular structure on the material mechanics remains poorly understood. Here, rapidly exchanging hydrogen bonds and thermoresponsive Diels–Alder bonds were included into molecularly engineered interpenetrated network materials. RAFT polymerization was used to make well-defined polymers with control over macromolecular architecture. The IPN materials were assessed by gel permeation chromatography, differential scanning calorimetry, tensile testing and rheology. The mechanical properties of these IPN materials can be tuned by varying the crosslinker content and chain length. All materials are elastic and have dynamic behavior at both ambient temperature and elevated temperature (90 °C), owing to the presence of the dual dynamic noncovalent and covalent bonds. 100% self-healing recovery was achieved and a maximum stress level of up to 6 MPa was obtained. The data suggested the material's healing properties are inversely proportional to the content of the crosslinker or the degree of polymerization at both room and elevated temperature. The thermoresponsive crosslinker restricted deformation to some extent in an ambient environment but gave excellent malleability upon heating. The underlying mechanism was explored by the computational simulations. Furthermore, a single network material with the same crosslinker content and degree of polymerization as the IPN was made. The SN was substantially weaker than the comparable IPN material.