Rapidly reprocessable, degradable epoxy vitrimer and recyclable carbon fiber reinforced thermoset composites relied on high contents of exchangeable aromatic disulfide crosslinks
With large quantities of waste carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites generated, the development of recycling routes for CFRP composites have been driven by both environmental and economic factors. Vitrimer materials provide exciting opportunities to recycle thermosets and CFRP composites, since they can be thermally reprocessed without losing their permanently cross-linked networks. However, the poor mechanical properties, additional catalyst and time-consuming recycling process still limit their applications. Herein, the authors proposed an epoxy vitrimer with high contents of exchangeable aromatic disulfide crosslinks to overcome these limitations. This epoxy vitrimer exhibited outstanding properties with the glass transition temperature (Tg) of 147 °C and the tensile strength of 63.1 MPa. Upon heating, it released the stress from deformation more rapidly without any catalyst, resulting from the high contents of disulfide crosslinks in the network. Meanwhile, the networks exhibited excellent reprocessability and were more readily degraded by thiols. Moreover, this epoxy was applied as matrix to prepare recyclable CFRP composites. By dissolving the epoxy matrix efficiently, the carbon fibers embedded were recycled rapidly and they still exhibited outstanding mechanical properties when being reused to form CFRP composites. Results from this study may promote the wide development of cost-efficient recyclable composites in automotive, wind power and aeronautical industries.