Towards a retro-structural design of degradable aliphatic polyester-based materials
Sammanfattning: The increasing amount of accumulated plastic waste has led to a continuous search for degradable materials for use in a variety of applications. This eco-friendly approach contemplates the use of degradable alternatives to the inert polymers (the main components in plastics) used today and further engineering of their degradation pathways. The most extensively investigated group of degradable polymers is the poly(α-esters), due to their tailorable thermo-mechanical properties and degradability. However, degradation of these polymers can be undesirable or desirable depending on the time of occurrence. Thus, by controlling the degradation process, it is possible to predict and, consequently, tailor the materials’ lifetime for specific needs.Herein, a methodology to allow for a retro-structural design of degradable materials based on aliphatic polyesters is presented. Insights into the degradation behavior of the systems were obtained and further translated to different levels of structural designs to achieve desired macroscopic properties in terms of performance and degradability. Several combinational strategies based on polymer morphology, polymer structure and block design, were developed. As a result, homopolymers and block copolymers with projected degradation for different instances were created. Apart from bulk modifications in the material, it was shown that it was possible to tailor degradation pathways by means of specific interactions between polymer pairs in block copolymers and also in polymer blends. Furthermore, well-defined structure-property relationships are crucial when designing materials with specific degradability properties. In light of this, degradable polyester-based particles with tunable crystalline structures and, hence, physical properties, were developed. These particles proved to function as reinforcing agents in the creation of “green” homocomposites. These composites are promising alternatives in the search for materials that are completely degradable and sustainable.
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