Closed-loop chemical recycling of cross-linked polymeric materials based on reversible amidation chemistry

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Closed-loop chemical recycling provides a solution to the end-of-use problem of synthetic polymers. However, it remains a major challenge to design dynamic bonds, capable of effective bonding and reversible cleaving, for preparing chemically recyclable cross-linked polymers. Herein, we report a dynamic maleic acid tertiary amide bond based upon reversible amidation reaction between maleic anhydrides and secondary amines. This dynamic bond allows for the construction of polymer networks with tailorable and robust mechanical properties, covering strong elastomers with a tensile strength of 22.3 MPa and rigid plastics with a yield strength of 38.3 MPa. Impressively, these robust polymeric materials can be completely depolymerized in an acidic aqueous solution at ambient temperature, leading to efficient monomer recovery with >94% separation yields. Meanwhile, the recovered monomers can be used to remanufacture cross-linked polymeric materials without losing their original mechanical performance. This work unveils a general approach to design polymer networks with tunable mechanical performance and closed-loop recyclability, which will open a new avenue for sustainable polymeric materials.

Nat. Commun., 2022, 13, 7595