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Recyclable polyurethane research published in ACS Macro Letters

The award-winning work of student researchers in the Center for Sustainable Polymers on chemically recyclable biobased polyurethanes has been published in ACS Macro Letters. The article is title, "Chemically Recyclable Biobased Polyurethanes," DOI: 10.1021/acsmacrolett.6b00193. Read the American Chemical Society press release.

The CSP team of student researchers includes Alexander Mannion, Tessie Panthani, Deborah Schneiderman, Marie Vanderlaan. Using renewable feedstocks, they have developed mechanically tunable, chemically recyclable polyurethane foams and elastomers. These materials are more sustainable than conventional non-degradable petroleum-derived polyurethanes.

Mannion and Panthani are from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and Schneiderman and Vanderlaan are from the Department of Chemistry. Additional authors are undergraduate Derek Batiste and Professor Marc Hillmyer from the Department of Chemistry, and Post-doctoral Researcher Jay Wang and professors Frank Bates and Christopher Macosko from the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science.

The abstract for the article provide additional information on this break-through research: “Polyurethanes (PUs), in the form of coatings, adhesives, sealants, elastomers, and foams, play a vital role in the consumer goods, automotive, and construction industries. However, the inevitable disposal of nondegradable postconsumer polyurethane products constitutes a massive waste management problem that has yet to be solved.

“We address this challenge through the synthesis of biobased and chemically recyclable polyurethanes. Our approach employs renewable and degradable hydroxy telechelic poly(β-methyl-δ-valerolactone) as a replacement for petroleum-derived polyols in the synthesis of both thermoplastic polyurethanes and flexible foams. These materials rival petroleum-derived PUs in performance and can also be easily recycled to recover β-methyl-δ-valerolactone monomer in high purity and high yield. This recycling strategy bypasses many of the technical challenges that currently preclude the practical chemical recycling of PUs”

This research earned the CSP student researchers grand prize in the Dow Sustainability Innovative Student Challenge, and top honors in the BASF 150th Anniversary North American Science Competition.