Vitrimer composites: current status and future challenges
Thermosets dominate the composite industry owing to their outstanding stiffness to weight ratio and fatigue resistance. Nevertheless, the possibilities of recycling these materials are limited due to the irreversible chemical bonds created during the curing process which cause the materials to be set in their final form. The available recycling strategies generally degrade the polymer matrix either by burning off (pyrolysis) or chemically dissolving (solvolysis) the resins in order to recover the fibres. But methodologies to reprocess or fully recycle (i.e. resin + fibres) these composite materials are rare. Thus, the development of more sustainable approaches is now increasing importantly and is seen as a decisive challenge for the further development of composite materials. Vitrimer materials, which combine the mechanical resilience of thermosets with reprocessability of “glass” at high temperatures, appear as a very promising alternative towards recyclable thermoset composites. This review gathers the recent progress in the domain of vitrimer composites and points out the next future challenges to be tackled. A brief section discussing the first industrial initiatives is also presented.