ACS Omega. 2022 Aug 9;7(33):29125-29134. doi: 10.1021/acsomega.2c02677. eCollection 2022 Aug 23.
With sustainability at the forefront of material research, recyclable polymers, such as vitrimers, have garnered increasing attention since their introduction in 2011. In addition to a traditional glass-transition temperature (T g), vitrimers have a second topology freezing temperature (T v) above which dynamic covalent bonds allow for rapid stress relaxation, self-healing, and shape reprogramming. Herein, we demonstrate the self-healing, shape memory, and shape reconfigurability properties as a function of experimental conditions, aiming toward recyclability and increased useful lifetime of the material. Of interest, we report the influence of processing conditions, which makes the material vulnerable to degradation. We report a decreased crosslink density with increased thermal cycling and compressive stress. Furthermore, we demonstrate that shape reconfigurability and self-healing are enhanced with increasing compressive stress and catalyst concentration, while their performance as a shape memory material remains unchanged. Though increasing the catalyst concentration, temperature, and compressive stress clearly enhances the recovery performance of vitrimers, we must emphasize its trade-off when considering the material degradation reported here. While vitrimers hold great promise as structural materials, it is vital to understand how experimental parameters impact their properties, stability, and reprocessability before vitrimers reach their true potential.