Sustainable thermoplastic elastomers produced via cationic RAFT polymerization†
Plastic production continually increases its share of global oil consumption. Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) are a necessary component of many industries, from automotive and construction to healthcare and medical devices. To reduce the environmental burden of TPE production on the world, we developed two new ABA triblock copolymers synthesized through cationic reversable addition–fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization from renewable monomers. Using poly(isobutyl vinyl ether) (PIBVE) as the soft block and either poly(p-methoxystyrene) (PMOS) or poly(2,3-dihydrofuran) (PDHF) as the hard blocks, we produced triblock copolymers with varying volume fractions and characterized their material properties. PDHF-PIBVE-PDHF is sourced almost entirely from simple alcohols and exhibits mechanical properties comparable to those of commercial TPEs. This effort demonstrates the utility of cationic RAFT for the production of sustainable TPEs.