Self-immolative polymers (SIPs) are a new emerging class of degradable polymers which degrade spontaneously through a sequence of depolymerization reactions to their respective monomers upon removal of specifically designed end-group functionalities.
Our research into such materials has led to the development of a new class of SIPs based on the monomer DL-Dithiolthreitol (DTT). DTT is polymerizable in the most simple maner, just through solid state mixing of DTT (blue with yellow thiols) and an activating agent (Dithiodipyridine, red with yellow disulfide) resulting in elongated chains of poly(DTT). The resulting poly(DTT) is fast to depolymerize, once the red end-caps are removed it selectively depolymerize to oxidized (cyclic) DTT, even in the solid state! The entire leftovers of a full polymerization-end-cap-replacement-depolymerization cycle can be recovered to starting materials, constituting a full recycling wheel.
The next step in poly(DTT) research is to functionalize the backbone and fine tune specific material properties.