Stretchable and durable inverse vulcanized polymers with chemical and thermal recycling


Inverse vulcanized polymer materials have received considerable attention as a way to use sulfur, an industrial by-product, as starting material for synthesis. The resulting high-sulfur content polymers have also been investigated because their properties give rise to promising applications like infrared imaging, energy storage, and heavy metal capture due to their unique structure. However, synthesis of a flexible sulfur polymer network which shows good mechanical properties combining high strength, high elongation, and high toughness is still a significant challenge. Moreover, further exploration of the properties of sulfur polymers to better understand the relationship between the polymers’ structure with their performance is still needed. Here, a range of crosslinked sulfur polymers with high tensile elongation and toughness, and without losing high strength were successfully synthesized. The obtained crosslinked sulfur polymers show high solvent tolerance in most organic solvents but are demonstrated to be chemically de-crosslinked in polar solvents dimethylformamide, dimethylacetamide and N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone and can be re-crosslinked after removing the solvent due to the high sulfur ranks present in the polymer network. Despite the significantly improved mechanical properties, highly efficient thermal recycling performance typical of inverse vulcanized polymers was retained. Flexibility and durability, combined with chemical and thermal recycling, could open a new door for wider applications of inverse vulcanized polymers.


Supplementary material

Supplementary Information
Full synthetic methods and characterisation
Video of shape recovery
Shape b1 recovering to shape a1
video of shape recovery 2
Shape b2 recovering to shape a2