Read the full article here: ACS Nano 15, 3, 5043 (2021).
by F. Lossada, D. Jiao, D. Hoenders and A. Walther
Nacre’s natural design consists of a perfect hierarchical assembly that resembles a brick-and-mortar structure with synergistic stiffness and toughness. The field of bioinspired materials often provides attractive architecture and engineering pathways which allow to explore outstanding property areas. However, the study of nacre-mimetic materials should not be limited to the design of its architecture but ought to include the understanding, operation, and improvement of internal interactions between their components. Here, we introduce a vitrimer prepolymer system that, once integrated into the nacre-mimetic nanocomposites, cures and cross-links with the presence of Lewis acid catalyst and further manifests associative dynamic exchange reactions. Bond exchanges are controllable by molecular composition and catalyst content and characterized by creep, shear-lag, and shape-locking tests. We exploit the vitrimer properties by laminating ca. 70 films into thick bulk materials, and characterize the flexural resistance and crack propagation. More importantly, we introduce recycling by grinding and hot-pressing. The recycling for highly reinforced nacre-mimetic nanocomposites is critically enabled by the vitrimer chemistry and improves the sustainability of bioinspired nanocomposites in cyclic economy. Finally, we integrate photothermal converters into the structures and use laser irradiation as external trigger to activate the vitrimer exchange reactions.