Cross-linked polymers are ubiquitous in daily life, finding applications as tires, insulation, adhesives, automotive parts, and countless other products. The covalent cross-links in these materials render them mechanically robust, chemically resistant, and thermally stable, but they also prevent recycling of these materials into similar-value goods. Furthermore, cross-linked polymers are typically produced from petroleum-based feedstocks, and their hydrocarbon backbones render them nondegradable, making them unsustainable in the long term. In recent years, much effort has focused on the development of recycling strategies for cross-linked polymeric materials. In the following Perspective, we discuss many of these approaches, and highlight efforts to sustainably produce recyclable cross-linked polymers. We present our thoughts on future challenges that must be overcome to enable widespread, viable, and more sustainable and practical implementation of these materials, including the sustainable sourcing of feedstocks, long-term environmental stability of inherently dynamic polymers, and moving toward industrially viable synthesis and reprocessing methods.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors also acknowledge the Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) at the University of Minnesota, a National Science Foundation (NSF) supported Center for Chemical Innovation (CHE-1413862) for financial support.
The authors acknowledge Kiley Schmidt and John Beumer for their aid in producing the figures and cover art for this Perspective. The authors also acknowledge the Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) at the University of Minnesota, a National Science Foundation (NSF) supported Center for Chemical Innovation (CHE-1413862) for financial support.
- Covalent adaptable network