Mechanically robust and reprocessable imine exchange networks from modular polyester pre-polymers†
Covalent adaptable networks (CANs) containing reversible cross-links impart recyclability to thermoset materials without sacrificing their desirable properties (e.g. high tensile strength and solvent resistance). In addition to thermal recycling, the sustainability of these materials may be further improved by incorporating bio-sourced monomers or by enabling alternate end-of-life fates, such as biodegradation or recovery of starting materials. The alternating ring-opening copolymerisation of epoxides and cyclic anhydrides permits the modular synthesis of polyester pre-polymers that can then be cross-linked to form dynamic imine-linked networks. We report the synthesis and characterisation of five imine exchange polyester CANs with varied cross-linking densities and pre-polymer architectures. While the materials exhibit characteristic thermoset properties at service temperatures, differences in pre-polymer architecture produce distinct dynamic mechanical effects at elevated temperatures. The networks may be thermally reprocessed with full recovery of their tensile strengths and cross-linking densities, dissociated to pre-polymer, or hydrolytically degraded.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Chemistry for Covalent Adaptable Polymer Networks