A synthetic polymer system with repeatable chemical recyclability

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Abstract

The development of chemically recyclable polymers offers a solution to the end-of-use issue of polymeric materials and provides a closed-loop approach toward a circular materials economy. However, polymers that can be easily and selectively depolymerized back to monomers typically require low-temperature polymerization methods and also lack physical properties and mechanical strengths required for practical uses. We introduce a polymer system based on γ-butyrolactone (GBL) with a trans-ring fusion at the α and β positions. Such trans-ring fusion renders the commonly considered as nonpolymerizable GBL ring readily polymerizable at room temperature under solvent-free conditions to yield a high–molecular weight polymer. The polymer has enhanced thermostability and can be repeatedly and quantitatively recycled back to its monomer by thermolysis or chemolysis. Mixing of the two enantiomers of the polymer generates a highly crystalline supramolecular stereocomplex.

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