Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Thermosetting Polyrotaxane Polymer Material

Editorial staff 07 Nov 2023

Scientists at the University of Tokyo have unveiled an exciting breakthrough in plastic technology, one that offers hope for a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future. This innovative plastic, called VPR (vitrimer incorporated with polyrotaxane), is stronger and more flexible than conventional plastics. The key to its unique properties lies in its ability to heal itself with heat, remember its shape, and partially biodegrade.

VPR is created by combining the molecule polyrotaxane with an epoxy resin vitrimer, a type of plastic. At low temperatures, it retains its form and boasts robust internal chemical bonds. However, when exposed to temperatures above 150 degrees Celsius, these bonds recombine, allowing the material to be reshaped into different forms. Applying heat and a solvent breaks down VPR into its raw components, making recycling a breeze. In addition, when submerged in seawater for 30 days, the material undergoes 25% biodegradation, providing marine life with a new food source.

The potential applications for VPR are vast and span a variety of industries. From engineering and manufacturing to medicine and sustainable fashion, this groundbreaking material could revolutionize the way we produce and use plastics. It aligns with the global efforts to reduce plastic waste and offers a more sustainable alternative, contributing to the achievement of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

One of the lead researchers, Project Assistant Professor Shota Ando, explained the significance of their discovery, stating, "VPR is over five times as resistant to breaking as a typical epoxy resin vitrimer. It also repairs itself 15 times as fast, can recover its original memorized shape twice as fast, and can be chemically recycled 10 times as fast as the typical vitrimer. It even biodegrades safely in a marine environment, which is new for this material."

The introduction of polyrotaxane in the formulation significantly improved the plastic's toughness, allowing for the creation of complex shapes that remain stable at low temperatures. Moreover, recycling VPR is simpler than traditional vitrimers, offering a promising solution for our society's increasing demand for resource recycling.

The applications of VPR extend from practical infrastructure materials, such as roads and bridges, to creative possibilities in fashion and design. Its unique combination of strength, flexibility, and recyclability opens doors to various industries, potentially reducing waste and improving material longevity.

The University of Tokyo researchers aim to collaborate with companies to explore the feasibility of their VPR-based ideas. Their pioneering work has the potential to address many global challenges with a single groundbreaking material, offering a more sustainable future for our planet.

Environmentally Friendly Sustainable Thermoset Vitrimer-Containing Polyrotaxane

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Scienzaonline con sottotitolo Sciencenew  - Periodico
Autorizzazioni del Tribunale di Roma – diffusioni:
telematica quotidiana 229/2006 del 08/06/2006
mensile per mezzo stampa 293/2003 del 07/07/2003
Scienceonline, Autorizzazione del Tribunale di Roma 228/2006 del 29/05/06
Pubblicato a Roma – Via A. De Viti de Marco, 50 – Direttore Responsabile Guido Donati

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