Molecular control over vitrimer-like mechanics – tuneable dynamic motifs based on the Hammett equation in polyimine materials†
In this work, we demonstrate that fine-grained, quantitative control over macroscopic dynamic material properties can be achieved using the Hammett equation in tuneable dynamic covalent polyimine materials. Via this established physical-organic principle, operating on the molecular level, one can fine-tune and control the dynamic material properties on the macroscopic level, by systematic variation of dynamic covalent bond dynamics through selection of the appropriate substituent of the aromatic imine building blocks. Five tuneable, crosslinked polyimine network materials, derived from dianiline monomers with varying Hammett parameter (σ) were studied by rheology, revealing a distinct correlation between the σ value and a range of corresponding dynamic material properties. Firstly, the linear correlation of the kinetic activation energy (Ea) for the imine exchange to the σ value, enabled us to tune the Ea from 16 to 85 kJ mol−1. Furthermore, the creep behaviour (γ), glass transition (Tg) and the topology freezing transition temperature (Tv), all showed a strong, often linear, dependence on the σ value of the dianiline monomer. These combined results demonstrate for the first time how dynamic material properties can be directly tuned and designed in a quantitative – and therefore predictable – manner through correlations based on the Hammett equation. Moreover, the polyimine materials were found to be strong elastic rubbers (G′ > 1 MPa at room temperature) that were stable up to 300 °C, as confirmed by TGA. Lastly, the dynamic nature of the imine bond enabled not only recycling, but also intrinsic self-healing of the materials over multiple cycles without the need for solvent, catalysts or addition of external chemicals.