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Catalyst‐Free Synthesis of Covalent Adaptable Network (CAN) Polyurethanes from Lignin with Editable Shape Memory Properties

A catalyst-free dynamic covalently cross-linking polyurethane was successfully prepared by a one-step method using untreated lignin. And by adjusting the lignin content and the isocyanate index, the properties of LPUs could be adjusted. Mechanical properties of LPUs could be significantly improved by extrusion. In addition, it exhibited editable shape memory function. Therefore, this paper can provide new ideas for the structural design of lignin-based polyurethanes.


Here a new strategy of catalyst-free direct synthesis of covalent adaptable network polyurethanes (LPUs) from lignin with editable shape memory effect is reported. Using unmodified lignin, PEG, and isocyanate under the condition of the isocyanate index less than 1.0 (NCO/OH<1.0), a variety of LPUs are obtained. When NCO/OH=0.8, a stable cross-linked network can be formed (ex. the gel content of LPU50-0.8 was 98±0.3 %). The activation energy (E a) value of LPUs is similar to that of polyhydroxyurethanes (PHUs), at around 110 kJ mol−1. With an increase of lignin content, the LPUs show a transition from ductile fracture to brittle fracture mode. And the mechanical properties of LPUs are significantly enhanced after extrusion processing, with the maximum modulus reaching 649±26 MPa and the maximum toughness up to 9927±111 kJ m−3. The improvement in mechanical properties is due to the homogenization of complex cross-linked network under the powerful external force of the extruder and the lignin that originally was free in the system participated in the exchange reactions. Moreover, LPUs can also be prepared continuously in one step by using an extruder as the reactor. In addition, LPU50-0.8 has an editable shape memory effect. This study develops a novel method for the synthesis of LPU from lignin with NCO/OH<1.0, showcasing new possibilities for value-added utilization of lignin, and expands the bio-based products portfolio from biomass feedstock to help meet future green manufacturing demands.

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