Linear, Graft, and Beyond: Multiblock Copolymers as Next-Generation Compatibilizers

Jeffrey L Self, Aristotle J Zervoudakis, Xiayu Peng, William R. Lenart, Chris Macosko, Christopher J. Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Properly addressing the global issue of unsustainable plastic waste generation and accumulation will require a confluence of technological breakthroughs on various fronts. Mechanical recycling of plastic waste into polymer blends is one method expected to contribute to a solution. Due to phase separation of individual components, mechanical recycling of mixed polymer waste streams generally results in an unsuitable material with substantially reduced performance. However, when an appropriately designed compatibilizer is used, the recycled blend can have competitive properties to virgin materials. In its current state, polymer blend compatibilization is usually not cost-effective compared to traditional waste management, but further technical development and optimization will be essential for driving future cost competitiveness. Historically, effective compatibilizers have been diblock copolymers or in situ generated graft copolymers, but recent progress shows there is great potential for multiblock copolymer compatibilizers. In this perspective, we lay out recent advances in synthesis and understanding for two types of multiblock copolymers currently being developed as blend compatibilizers: linear and graft. Importantly, studies of appropriately designed copolymers have shown them to efficiently compatibilize model binary blends at concentrations as low as ∼0.2 wt %. These investigations pave the way for studies on more complex (ternary or higher) mixed waste streams that will require novel compatibilizer architectures. Given the progress outlined here, we believe that multiblock copolymers offer a practical and promising solution to help close the loop on plastic waste. While a complete discussion of the implementation of this technology would entail infrastructural, policy, and social developments, they are outside the scope of this perspective which instead focuses on material design considerations and the technical advancements of block copolymer compatibilizers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-321
Number of pages12
JournalJACS Au
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 28 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge our principal funding source, the National Science Foundation Center for Sustainable Polymers at the University of Minnesota, which is a National Science Foundation supported Center for Chemical Innovation (CHE-1901635).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.


  • Compatibilization
  • Multiblock Copolymers
  • Polymer Processing
  • Recycling
  • Sustainability

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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