Overcoming the entropy of polymer chains by making a plane with terminal groups: a thermoplastic PDMS with a long-range 1D structural order

Abstract

Due to its unique physical and chemical properties, polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is widely used in many applications, in which covalent cross-linking is commonly used to cure the fluidic polymer. The formation of a non-covalent network achieved through the incorporation of terminal groups that exhibit strong intermolecular interactions has also been reported to improve the mechanical properties of PDMS. Through the design of a terminal group capable of two-dimensional (2D) assembly, rather than the generally used multiple hydrogen bonding motifs, we have recently demonstrated an approach for inducing long-range structural ordering of PDMS, resulting in a dramatic change in the polymer from a fluid to a viscous solid. Here we present an even more surprising terminal-group effect: simply replacing a hydrogen with a methoxy group leads to extraordinary enhancement of the mechanical properties, giving rise to a thermoplastic PDMS material without covalent cross-linking. This finding would update the general notion that less polar and smaller terminal groups barely affect polymer properties. Based on a detailed study of the thermal, structural, morphological and rheological properties of the terminal-functionalized PDMS, we revealed that 2D assembly of the terminal groups results in networks of PDMS chains, which are arranged as domains with long-range one-dimensional (1D) periodic order, thereby increasing the storage modulus of the PDMS to exceed its loss modulus. Upon heating, the 1D periodic order is lost at around 120 °C, while the 2D assembly is maintained up to ∼160 °C. The 2D and 1D structures are recovered in sequence upon cooling. Due to the thermally reversible, stepwise structural disruption/formation as well as the lack of covalent cross-linking, the terminal-functionalized PDMS shows thermoplastic behavior and self-healing properties. The terminal group presented herein, which can form a ‘plane’, might also drive other polymers to assemble into a periodically ordered network structure, thereby allowing for significant modulation of their mechanical properties.

Graphical abstract: Overcoming the entropy of polymer chains by making a plane with terminal groups: a thermoplastic PDMS with a long-range 1D structural order

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
Edge Article
Submitted
03 Oct 2022
Accepted
03 Jan 2023
First published
04 Jan 2023
This article is Open Access

All publication charges for this article have been paid for by the Royal Society of Chemistry
Creative Commons BY license

Chem. Sci., 2023, Advance Article

Overcoming the entropy of polymer chains by making a plane with terminal groups: a thermoplastic PDMS with a long-range 1D structural order

Y. Chen, F. Ishiwari, T. Fukui, T. Kajitani, H. Liu, X. Liang, K. Nakajima, M. Tokita and T. Fukushima, Chem. Sci., 2023, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/D2SC05491D

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