An excess of elemental sulfur is generated annually from hydrodesulfurization in petroleum refining processes; however, it has a limited number of uses, of which one example is the production of sulfuric acid. Despite this excess, the development of synthetic and processing methods to convert elemental sulfur into useful chemical substances has not been investigated widely. Here we report a facile method (termed 'inverse vulcanization') to prepare chemically stable and processable polymeric materials through the direct copolymerization of elemental sulfur with vinylic monomers. This methodology enabled the modification of sulfur into processable copolymer forms with tunable thermomechanical properties, which leads to well-defined sulfur-rich micropatterned films created by imprint lithography. We also demonstrate that these copolymers exhibit comparable electrochemical properties to elemental sulfur and could serve as the active material in Li-S batteries, exhibiting high specific capacity (823 mA h g-1 at 100 cycles) and enhanced capacity retention.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We acknowledge the University of Arizona (UA), Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy, the World Class University Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (R31-10013), the Laboratory for Electrochemical Energy at the UA and the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (51026-ND10) for support of this work. K.C. acknowledges financial support from the National Research Foundation for the National Creative Research Initiative Center for Intelligent Hybrids (2010-0018290). Y-E.S. acknowledges financial support from the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology through the Institute of Basic Science Program.