Inorganic ionomers show characteristic behavior of polymers, including fiber formation (left) and flow (center). However, they have high thermal stability: like silicate glass (top right), inorganic ionomers (bottom right) they do not burn or produce fumes when exposed to flame.
Traditional, carbon-based, organic polymers have many applications, but they rely on petroleum, a limited resource. Additionally, carbon-based polymers have low thermal stability and often release harmful chemicals when they break down.
Researchers at Rutgers have developed polymers with inorganic backbones (Si-O and P-O) and ionic crosslinks (inorganic ionomers) that can be produced from minerals that are abundant in the earth’s crust. The strong bonds of the inorganic backbone lead to high chemical and thermal stability, reducing the number of toxic byproducts. The ionic crosslinks are reversible, contributing to self-healing properties of the polymers. Furthermore, the number of ionic crosslinks and the type of ion can be controlled to carefully tune the mechanical properties of the polymer.
Since these inorganic ionomers may vary from soft rubbery materials to hard resins, they have a wide range of applications.
- Biocompatible food packaging
- Flexible displays
- Fuel cell membranes
- Readily available raw materials
- Thermally stable (inorganic backbone)
- Chemically stable (inorganic backbone)
- Stiffer and stronger (ionic crosslinks)
- Tunable properties (ionic crosslinks)
- Self-healing (reformation of ionic crosslinks)
Intellectual Property & Development Status:
Issued Patent. Available for licensing and/or research collaboration.