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Concept: Polybutadiene


Although biodegradable polymers have found extensive applications in medical areas, there are limited reports that show elastomeric behavior. In this work, a biodegradable, elastomeric polymer is demonstrated from a four-armed star copolymer. With a fixed middle core composition, comprising caprolactone (CL) and L-lactide (LA), an elastomer is obtained by increasing the polylactide (PLA) end block lengths to obtain sufficient end block crystallinity. This increase suppressed the middle core’s crystallinity yet ensured cocrystallization of the PLA ends of individual star copolymer chains to form a three-dimensional network via physical crosslinking. Cyclic and creep test of the star copolymers showed that at least 75% of recovery was achieved. Degradation study of the copolymer showed that degradation first occurred in the caprolactone-co-lactide (CLLA) core, followed by degradation in the PLA ends. Chain scission in the middle core resulted in immediate formation of CL crystals within the core and increased crystallinity over time, in both CLLA core and PLA ends. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 100A:3436-3445, 2012.

Concepts: Cross-link, Materials science, Copolymer, Thermoplastic, Polybutadiene, Polymer chemistry, Elastomer, Polymer


We investigated, for the first time, the conditions where a thermoplastic conductive composite can exhibit completely reversible stretchability at high elongational strains (ε =1.8). We studied a composite of Au nanosheets and SBS block copolymer as an example. The composite had an outstandingly low sheet resistance (0.45 Ω/sq). We found that when a thin thermoplastic composite film is placed on a relatively thicker chemically-crosslinked elastomer film, it can follow the reversible elastic behavior of the bottom elastomer. Such elasticity comes from the restoration of the block copolymer microstructure. The strong adhesion of the thermoplastic polymer to the metallic fillers is advantageous in the fabrication of mechanically robust highly conductive stretchable electrodes. The chemical stability of the Au composite was used to fabricate high luminescence stretchable electrochemiluminescence displays with a conventional top-bottom electrode setup and with a horizontal electrode setup.

Concepts: Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, Copolymer, Composite material, Thermoplastic elastomer, Materials science, Polymer, Thermoplastic, Polybutadiene


Cellulose-based thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) have attracted considerable attention because of their rigid backbone, good mechanical properties, renewable nature and abundance. In the present study, sustainable TPEs based on ethyl cellulose (EC), fatty acid and furfural were generated by the combination of ATRP and “click chemistry”. To fabricate sustainable TPEs with higher toughness, a range of polymers, including mono random-copolymer poly(tetrahydrofurfuryl methacrylate-co-lauryl methacrylate) (P(THFMA-co-LMA), dual polymer side chains PTHFMA and PLMA, and mono-block copolymer PTHFMA-b-PLMA, were designed as side chains to fabricate EC brush copolymers with random, dual or block side chain architectures using the “grafting from” and “grafting onto” methods. The multi-armed structures, chemical compositions and phase separation of these EC brush copolymers were confirmed by FT-IR, (1)H NMR, GPC, DSC, TEM and SEM. Overall, three types of EC brush copolymers all exhibited the desired mechanical properties of TPEs. In addition, the EC brush copolymers with dual/block side chain architectures showed higher tensile strength than that of the random polymers with similar compositions.

Concepts: Copolymer, Polybutadiene, Hydrolysis, Polymer chemistry, Amino acid, Elastomer, Organic chemistry, Polymer


We designed a nanocomposite consisting of CdSe nanoplatelets dispersed in the form of short stacks in the polybutadiene domains of a polystyrene-polybutadiene-polystyrene (SBS) thermoplastic elastomer matrix. Under strain, the material displays reversible, macroscopic anisotropic properties, e.g. the fluorescence signal. We present here a structural study of the composite under stretching, by in situ high-resolution X-ray scattering using synchrotron radiation. Modelling the scattering signal allows us to monitor the evolution of both the matrix and the platelets under strain. In particular, we show that the strain “reshuffles” the platelet stacks, which tilt their long axis from parallel to the plane of the microstructure lamellae at rest to perpendicular to this plane at high strain, at the same time breaking into smaller pieces, more easily accommodated in the soft butadiene domains. This reshuffling is fully reversed after strain relaxation. Moreover, it can be prevented by adding free oleic acid, which reinforces the interactions between the platelets in the stacks.

Concepts: Elastomer, Plane, Thermoplastic elastomer, Synthetic rubber, Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, Thermoplastic, Perpendicular, Polybutadiene


Membranes are prepared by self-assembly and casting of 5 and 13 wt% poly(styrene-b-butadiene-b-styrene) (PS-b-PB-b-PS) copolymers solutions in different solvents, followed by immersion in water or ethanol. By controlling the solution-casting gap, porous films of 50 and 1 µm thickness are obtained. A gradient of increasing pore size is generated as the distance from the surface increased. An ordered porous surface layer with continuous nanochannels can be observed. Its formation is investigated, by using time-resolved grazing incident small angle X-ray scattering, electron microscopy, and rheology, suggesting a strong effect of the air-solution interface on the morphology formation. The thin PS-b-PB-b-PS ordered films are modified, by promoting the photolytic addition of thioglycolic acid to the polybutadiene groups, adding chemical functionality and specific transport characteristics on the preformed nanochannels, without sacrificing the membrane morphology. Photomodification increases fivefold the water permeance to around 2 L m(-2) h(-1) bar(-1) , compared to that of the unmodified one. A rejection of 74% is measured for methyl orange in water. The membranes fabrication with tailored nanochannels and chemical functionalities can be demonstrated using relatively lower cost block copolymers. Casting on porous polyacrylonitrile supports makes the membranes even more scalable and competitive in large scale.

Concepts: Acid, X-ray crystallography, Synthetic rubber, Electron, Ethanol, Copolymer, Polymer, Polybutadiene


(Bis)furan-telechelic, low-molar-mass polybutadienes and polyisoprenes are synthesized by controlled degradation of high molar mass polymers and chain-end modifications yielding difunctional, trifunctional, or tetrafunctional polymers. Addition of a bismaleimide to the liquid-modified polymer leads to the formation of a thermoreversible elastomeric network based on the Diels-Alder chemistry for the trifunctional or tetrafunctional polymers, whereas only chain extension occurs for the bifunctional one. Dynamic mechanical analyses or tensile tests are performed on the networks and reveal a similar behavior for polyisoprene and polybutadiene with nevertheless quite different Young modulus or strain at break. The retro Diels-Alder reaction occurs upon heating, allowing the remolding of the used elastomer. The remolded network exhibits the same mechanical properties as the initial network, showing an efficient material recyclability.

Concepts: Elastomers, Materials science, Polybutadiene, Ethylene-vinyl acetate, Young's modulus, Polyethylene terephthalate, Elastomer, Polymer


Block copolymers have been extensively studied due to their ability to spontaneously self-organize into a wide variety of morphologies that are valuable in energy-, medical-, and conservation-related (nano)technologies. While the phase behavior of bicomponent diblock and triblock copolymers is conventionally governed by temperature and individual block masses, it is demonstrated here that their phase behavior can alternatively be controlled through the use of blocks with random monomer sequencing. Block random copolymers (BRCs), i.e., diblock copolymers wherein one or both blocks are a random copolymer comprised of A and B repeat units, have been synthesized, and their phase behavior, expressed in terms of the order-disorder transition (ODT), has been investigated. The results establish that, depending on the block composition contrast and molecular weight, BRCs can microphase-separate. We also report that large variation in incompatibility can be generated at relatively constant molecular weight and temperature with these new soft materials. This sequence-controlled synthetic strategy is extended to thermoplastic elastomeric triblock copolymers differing in chemistry and possessing a random-copolymer midblock.

Concepts: Mass, Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, Polybutadiene, Polymer chemistry, Polymer, Copolymer


Dielectric elastomer (DE) actuators have been shown to have promising applications as soft electromechanical transducers in many emerging technologies. The DE actuators, which are capable of large actuation strain over a wide range of excitation frequencies, are highly desirable. Here, the first single-component DE of a triblock copolymer with attractive electromechanical performance is reported. Symmetric poly(styrene-b-butyl acrylate-b-styrene) (SBAS) is designed and synthesized. The SBAS actuator exhibits about 100% static actuation area strain and excellent dynamic performance, as evidenced by a wide half bandwidth of 300 Hz and a very high specific power of 1.2 W g(-1) within the excitation frequency range of 300-800 Hz.

Concepts: Polybutadiene, Torque, Hertz, Electric motor, Frequency range, Transducer, Actuator, Frequency


One of the most important areas of research on microfluidic technologies focuses on the identification and characterisation of novel materials with enhanced properties and versatility. Here we present a fast, easy and inexpensive microstructuration method for the fabrication of novel, flexible, transparent and biocompatible microfluidic devices. Using a simple hot press, we demonstrate the rapid (30 s) production of various microfluidic prototypes embossed in a commercially available soft thermoplastic elastomer (sTPE). This styrenic block copolymer (BCP) material is as flexible as PDMS and as thermoformable as classical thermoplastics. It exhibits high fidelity of replication using SU-8 and epoxy master molds in a highly convenient low-isobar (0.4 bar) and iso-thermal process. Microfluidic devices can then be easily sealed using either a simple hot plate or even a room-temperature assembly, allowing them to sustain liquid pressures of 2 and 0.6 bar, respectively. The excellent sorption and biocompatibility properties of the microchips were validated via a standard rhodamine dye assay as well as a sensitive yeast cell-based assay. The morphology and composition of the surface area after plasma treatment for hydrophilization purposes are stable and show constant and homogenous distribution of block nanodomains (∼22° after 4 days). These domains, which are evenly distributed on the nanoscale, therefore account for the uniform and convenient surface of a “microfluidic scale device”. To our knowledge, this is the first thermoplastic elastomer material that can be used for fast and reliable fabrication and assembly of microdevices while maintaining a high and stable hydrophilicity.

Concepts: Polymer physics, Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, Polymer, Elastomer, Microfluidics, Polybutadiene, Thermoplastic, Thermoplastic elastomer


Sustainable elastomers have undergone explosive growth in recent years, partly due to the resurgence of biobased materials prepared from renewable natural resources. However, mounting challenges still prevail: How can the chemical compositions and macromolecular architectures of sustainable polymers be controlled and broadened? How can their processability and recyclability be enabled? How can they compete with petroleum-based counterparts in both cost and performance? Molecular-biomass-derived polymers, such as polymyrcene, polymenthide, and poly(ε-decalactone), have been employed for constructing thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs). Plant oils are widely used for fabricating thermoset elastomers. We use abundant biomass, such as plant oils, cellulose, rosin acids, and lignin, to develop elastomers covering a wide range of structure-property relationships in the hope of delivering better performance. In this Account, recent progress in preparing monomers and TPEs from biomass is first reviewed. ABA triblock copolymer TPEs were obtained with a soft middle block containing a soybean-oil-based monomer and hard outer blocks containing styrene. In addition, a combination of biobased monomers from rosin acids and soybean oil was formulated to prepare triblock copolymer TPEs. Together with the above-mentioned approaches based on block copolymers, multigraft copolymers with a soft backbone and rigid side chains are recognized as the first-generation and second-generation TPEs, respectively. It has been recently demonstrated that multigraft copolymers with a rigid backbone and elastic side chains can also be used as a novel architecture of TPEs. Natural polymers, such as cellulose and lignin, are utilized as a stiff, macromolecular backbone. Cellulose/lignin graft copolymers with side chains containing a copolymer of methyl methacrylate and butyl acrylate exhibited excellent elastic properties. Cellulose graft copolymers with biomass-derived polymers as side chains were further explored to enhance the overall sustainability. Isoprene polymers were grafted from a cellulosic backbone to afford Cell-g-polyisoprene copolymers. Via cross-linking of these graft copolymers, human-skin-mimic elastomers and high resilient elastomers with a well-defined network structure were achieved. The mechanical properties of these resilient elastomers could be finely controlled by tuning the cellulose content. As isoprene can be produced by engineering of microorganisms, these elastomers could be a renewable alternative to petroleum products. In summary, triblock copolymer and graft copolymer TPEs with biomass components, skin-mimic elastomers, high resilient biobased elastomers, and engineering of macromolecular architectures for elastomers are discussed. These approaches and design provide us knowledge on the potential to make sustainable elastomers for various applications to compete with petroleum-based counterparts.

Concepts: Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, Structural unit, Polybutadiene, Copolymer, Synthetic rubber, Polymer chemistry, Polymer