“Reprocessable Thermosets”: Synthesis and Characterization of Vitrimer in the Undergraduate Lab Course

Qiaomei Chen, Yang Yang, Ying Yu, and Huaping Xu

J. Chem. Educ.2021, DOI:10.1021/acs.jchemed.0c01289.

This article introduces a novel experiment that involves vitrimers, a new type of polymer, in polymer chemistry and physics lab courses for undergraduate students. Vitrimers are permanently cross-linked networks that can be reprocessed under certain external stimuli. Therefore, they combine the advantages of traditional thermoplastics (excellent reprocessability) with thermosets (outstanding mechanical properties and environmental stability). They can be regarded as a kind of “special thermoset”, which moves this industry toward a more sustainable path, as they are conducive to decreasing thermosetting wastes, reducing environmental pollution, and cutting down the waste of resources. From this lab class, students obtained more experience in the preparation and characterization of polymers. They also learned the concepts of dynamic chemistries and vitrimers and gained a better understanding of the advantages and limitations of thermosets and thermoplastics, as well as a strategy for making a
reprocessable thermoset polymeric material. It also fostered students’ interest in functional materials and inspired them to design other functional materials. Moreover, this experimental setup is convenient and safe for implementation and dissemination in most undergraduate laboratory classes.