Building Tunable Degradation into High-Performance Poly(acrylate) Pressure-Sensitive Adhesives
Kaitlin R. Albanese, Yoichi Okayama, Parker T. Morris, Matthias Gerst, Rohini Gupta, Joshua C. Speros, Craig J. Hawker, Chungryong Choi, Javier Read de Alaniz, and Christopher M. Bates
ACS Macro Lett. 2023, 12, 6, 787–793
Abstract: Pressure-sensitive adhesives (PSAs) based on poly(acrylate) chemistry are common in a wide variety of applications, but the absence of backbone degradability causes issues with recycling and sustainability. Here, we report a strategy to create degradable poly(acrylate) PSAs using simple, scalable, and functional 1,2-dithiolanes as drop-in replacements for traditional acrylate comonomers. Our key building block is α-lipoic acid, a natural, biocompatible, and commercially available antioxidant found in various consumer supplements. α-Lipoic acid and its derivative ethyl lipoate efficiently copolymerize with n-butyl acrylate under conventional free-radical conditions leading to high-molecular-weight copolymers (Mn > 100 kg mol–1) containing a tunable concentration of degradable disulfide bonds along the backbone. The thermal and viscoelastic properties of these materials are practically indistinguishable from nondegradable poly(acrylate) analogues, but a significant reduction in molecular weight is realized upon exposure to reducing agents such as tris (2-carboxyethyl) phosphine (e.g., Mn = 198 kg mol–1 → 2.6 kg mol–1). By virtue of the thiol chain ends produced after disulfide cleavage, degraded oligomers can be further cycled between high and low molecular weights through oxidative repolymerization and reductive degradation. Transforming otherwise persistent poly(acrylates) into recyclable materials using simple and versatile chemistry could play a pivotal role in improving the sustainability of contemporary adhesives.