Synthesis and Applications of Polymers Made by Inverse Vulcanization


Elemental sulfur is an abundant and inexpensive chemical feedstock, yet it is underused as a starting material in chemical synthesis. Recently, a process coined inverse vulcanization was introduced in which elemental sulfur is converted into polymers by ring-opening polymerization, followed by cross-linking with an unsaturated organic molecule such as a polyene. The resulting materials have high sulfur content (typically 50–90% sulfur by mass) and display a range of interesting properties such as dynamic S–S bonds, redox activity, high refractive indices, mid-wave IR transparency, and heavy metal affinity. These properties have led to a swell of applications of these polymers in repairable materials, energy generation and storage, optical devices, and environmental remediation. This article will discuss the synthesis of polymers by inverse vulcanization and review case studies on their diverse applications. An outlook is also presented to discuss future opportunities and challenges for further advancement of polymers made by inverse vulcanization.

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Image reproduced with permission from Ref. [76]


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The authors thank Flinders University, The Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, AMP’s Tomorrow Fund, the South Australian Defence Innovation Partnership, and the Royal Society International Exchange Programme for financial support of their research program in the synthesis and applications of polymers made from sulfur. The authors also thank Dr Tom Hasell for helpful discussions.

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Correspondence to Justin M. Chalker.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection “Sulfur Chemistry” edited by Xuefeng Jiang.

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Chalker, J.M., Worthington, M.J.H., Lundquist, N.A. et al. Synthesis and Applications of Polymers Made by Inverse Vulcanization. Top Curr Chem (Z) 377, 16 (2019).

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  • Inverse vulcanization
  • Polymer
  • Polysulfide
  • Sulfur
  • Sulfur polymer