The innovation engine for new materials

Maria Soto

Maria Soto


Chemical Engineering


California State University, Long Beach


Chungryong Choi

Faculty Sponsor(s): 

Christopher Bates

Faculty Sponsor's Department(s): 


Project Title: 

Degradable Elastomers Based on Sustainable and Green Chemistry

Project Description: 

Petroleum-based plastics and refinery byproducts continue to pollute ecosystems and communities  whilst devastating entire populations. Despite a steady increase of plastic recycling, studies still  predict a substantial surge in the reliance of petrol-based polymers and plastic waste accumulation  in megaton amounts by 2050. Concurrently, petroleum refineries generate extensive sulfur  byproducts that accumulate in landfills even after creative chemical applications for other goods.  In response, researchers have devised a crosslinked, sulfur-based polymer in a novel process  termed inverse vulcanization. While some of the most apparent concerns with the polymerization  process, such as slow reaction times and high temperatures, have been addressed, the synthesis of  an elastomer with tunable mechanical properties remains unexplored. As such, this study  investigates the effect of α-Lipoic Acid in a castor-oil-crosslinked sulfur polymer to formulate a  mechanically modifiable and degradable elastomer. Due to the hydrogen bonding nature of α lipoic acid, polymer mechanical properties such as toughness, extensibility, and flexibility are  expected to be readily tunable through the composition of α-lipoic acid. Furthermore, the unique  chemistry of reacted α-lipoic acid enables the resulting crosslinked material to be chemically  degraded in basic conditions. Preliminary tension results for a series of α-lipoic acid formulations  confirm elasticity that is expected to improve with greater α-lipoic acid concentrations. Ultimately,  the introduction of an organic and easily accessible comonomer and crosslinker progresses  conventional catalytic inverse vulcanization to offer a stretchable, sustainable, and chemically