Utilizing waste CO2 and producing recyclable plastics are two of the major issues faced by the energy and materials industries. It is therefore exciting to see this new work, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, which may provide a solution to both of these issues at the same time.

In the work, researchers from the University of Liege develop a new route to sustainable plastics by reacting oxazolidones monomers produced from CO2 with thiols. This provides a non-isocyanate polyurethane structure with embedded N,S-acetal bonds. These N,S-acetal bonds are highly dissociative in nature, a feature that can be exploited to allow recycling by multiple methods.

Crucially, the researchers also show that the polymer structure can be tuned through design of the monomer. This makes it possible to produce plastics with a range of properties, mimicking both highly malleable elastomers such as silicones, as well as rigid materials such as polystyrene. These sustainable materials could therefore be used across a wide range of applications.

It is too early to know if the University of Liege has protected their Intellectual Property, and whether the methodology can be successfully commercialized, however, I look forward to seeing the work develop as it could make a significant impact to the polymer industry in the future.

This new technology is emerging as a potential solution for the development of sustainable plastics with a wide range of properties that can easily meet the needs of most of our everyday applications.


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