Thermoset plastics or resins are widely used for many applications but, because they are crosslinked networks, they cannot be melted down for recycling as thermoplastics can. This poses challenges for material reuse and reprocessing. Now, Jeremiah Johnson and colleagues report a method to endow a thermoset (polydicyclopentadiene) with a degree of recyclability and reprocessability, by incoporating cleavable chemical linkages in the strands/backbones of the polymer, rather than in the crosslinks. These crosslinks can be degraded on demand, producing soluble products that can be repolymerized to produce materials with similar properties to the native material. This degradable strand strategy could be applied to other thermoset systems, provided that suitable chemistries can be incorporated.
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