Nat Commun. 2023 Sep 5;14(1):5423. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-41136-6.
Our society is pursuing chemically recyclable polymers to accelerate the green revolution in plastics. Here, we develop a recyclable polyester library from the alternating copolymerization of aldehyde and cyclic anhydride. Although these two monomer sets have little or no thermodynamic driving force for homopolymerization, their copolymerization demonstrates the unexpected alternating characteristics. In addition to readily available monomers, the method is performed under mild conditions, uses common Lewis/Brønsted acids as catalysts, achieves the facile tuning of polyester structure using two distinct monomer sets, and yields 60 polyesters. Interestingly, the copolymerization exhibits the chemical reversibility attributed to its relatively low enthalpy, which makes the resulting polyesters perform closed-loop recycling to monomers at high temperatures. This study provides a modular, efficient, and facile synthesis of recyclable polyesters using sustainable monomers.