Circular Economy

The first biological thermosetting polymers from US government laboratories

Over a certain temperature biological thermosetting polymers develop thermoplastic behavior

Can biological thermosetting polymers ever exist? The answer is yes, if you look at the results of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory trial. The US institute found a sustainable, soft material that combines rubber and wood reinforcements. Scientists have called it “intelligent” because it integrates links between components that can be “unlocked” with heat. In doing so, recycling is much easier and allows a simple circular economy of biopolymer.

The work of the ORNL was published in the journal Polymer Chemistry. In a more specific language, their invention combines cross-linked polymers of epoxy anhydride with solid fillers containing hydroxyl. The result is a material that behaves like a reinforced thermoset at temperatures below a specific threshold (typically 100 ºC to 200 ºC). But it can develop thermoplastic behavior at higher temperatures. This transition is facilitated by dynamic covalent bonds that allow the polymer to be reprocessed, reshaped and recycled without significant losses in mechanical integrity or performance.

Experts stressed that the process of making the smart biopolymer is solvent-free. Unlike conventional non-recyclable elastomers, the material is also completely circular. When heated beyond the threshold, the biopolymer quickly becomes a moldable material that can be injected into the molds or 3D printed. The innovative approach opens up new possibilities for sustainable production and efficient recycling, according to scientists.

The research team is now planning to further study how to customize these recyclable elastomers. The goal is to improve their mechanical performance and increase heat resistance. The idea is to use them in fiber-reinforced composite products. Traditional thermosetting polymers are widely used for their excellent stability and mechanical performance. However, these materials are typically derived from non-renewable petrochemical sources and are difficult to recycle, often ending up in landfills or incinerated

Related Articles

Back to top button