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Melt blowing is a process in which liquid polymer is extruded through orifices and then drawn by hot air jets to produce nonwoven fibers with average diameters typically greater than one micron. Melt-blown nonwoven fiber products constitute a significant fraction (i.e., more than 10%) of the $50 billion global nonwovens market. Thermoplastic feedstocks, such as polyethylene, polypropylene, poly(phenylene sulfide), and poly(butylene terephthalate), have dominated melt-blown nonwovens because of their combined cost, good chemical resistance, and high-temperature performance. Cross-linked nonwovens from other commodity polymers (e.g., (meth)acrylates, styrenics, silicones, etc.) could be attractive alternatives; however, no commercial cross-linked nonwovens currently exist. Here, cross-linked fibers were produced via one-step melt blowing of thermoreversible Diels-Alder polymer networks comprised of furan- and maleimide-functional methacrylate-based polymer backbones. These dynamic networks de-cross-link and flow like viscous liquids under melt-blowing conditions and then revert to a network via cooling-induced cross-linking during/after melt blowing. Finally, the resulting cross-linked fibers can be recycled after use because of their reversible dynamic nature, which may help address microfiber waste as a significant source of microplastic pollution.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge Cummins Filtration for financial support. Partial support to J.X. was provided by the Center for Sustainable Polymers, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported Center for Chemical Innovation (CHE-1413862). The authors also thank Prof. Christopher W. Macosko for helpful discussions. Parts of this work (SEM) were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from the National Science Foundation through the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (NSF-MRSEC) program.
© 2018 American Chemical Society.
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- Period 5
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Project: Research project