Polymeric materials with integrated functionalities are required to match their ever-expanding practical applications, but there is always a trade-off between complex material performances and synthetic simplification. A simple and effective synthesis route is reported to transform a small molecule of biological origin, thioctic acid, into a high-performance supramolecular polymeric material, which combines processability, ultrahigh stretchability, rapid self-healing ability, and reusable adhesivity to surfaces. The proposed one-step preparation process of this material involves the mixing of three commercially available feedstocks at mild temperature without any external solvent and a subsequent cooling process that resulted in a dynamic, high-density, and dry supramolecular polymeric network cross-linked by three different types of dynamic chemical bonds, whose cooperative effects in the network enable high performance of this supramolecular polymeric material.
Modern materials require increasingly sophisticated properties and often multiple functions, and meanwhile, ideal materials should be prepared by a facile and low-energy route originated from readily, preferably bio-based, available feedstocks (1). For man-made soft polymeric materials (2–8), diversified properties including moldability (9), stretchability (10), self-repair (11–14), adhesivity (15, 16), and recyclability (17) have been developed and enabled, even in an integrated fashion (18–25). These enhanced requirements lead to an increase in the structural complexity and synthetic difficulty, which also increases the cost. Therefore, it is a crucial challenge to prepare polymeric materials with integrated sophisticated properties by extremely simplified routes from bio-based feedstocks. To surmount this problem, the development of supramolecular polymers by the self-assembly of functional small molecules is an attractive solution (26–28). However, elaborate synthesis of precursors is usually required to introduce the desired supramolecular bonds, and in many cases, supramolecular networks typically exhibit fragile mechanical properties. Meanwhile, typical supramolecular polymers usually require additional solvents to support the dynamic properties and strength of the noncovalent interactions, thus resulting in gel networks instead of dry networks.
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