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Waste-based rubber can be joined or repaired catalytically

By Paul Grad |

A new sustainable rubber that can, with an amine catalyst, be repaired and returned to its original strength in minutes, has been discovered by researchers from Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia; www.flinders.edu.au), the University of Western Australia (Perth), and the University of Liverpool (U.K.). “This study reveals a new concept in the repair, adhesion and recycling of sustainable rubber,” says Justin Chalker, research leader and professor at Flinders University. “Too many rubbers, plastics and ceramics are not recyclable,” says Chalker.

The new rubber can be made from industrial waste products, such as sulfur and canola cooking oil, and dicyclopentadiene (DCPD). It is produced by means of inverse vulcanization, which is a copolymerization of elemental sulfur and alkenes. These polymers contain a polysulfide network that creates many opportunities for processing, assembly and repair that are not possible with traditional rubbers, plastics and thermosets. The researchers have shown that two surfaces of these sulfur-containing polymers can be chemically joined at room temperature through a phosphine- or amine-catalyzed exchange of the S–S bonds in the polymer. Rubber bricks made out of these polymers can be chemically joined by applying the catalyst.

These new polymers have potential applications in energy storage, adhesives, infrared optics and environmental remediation.

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