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Abstract

Biomass feedstock is a viable alternative to finite fossil fuel resources to provide many of the same—plus others that petrochemicals cannot—chemical building blocks required to fabricate durable and high-performance materials. We demonstrate here for the first time a new generation of synthesized elastomers, namely bio-based engineering elastomers (BEE). These are of particular significance because they are synthesized from monomers derived from biomass, by routes which are suitable for large scale production, and they exhibit thermo-mechanical properties at least equivalent to current commercial petrochemical-derived elastomers. Bio-based monomers in large scale production, such as sebacic acid, itaconic acid, succinate acid, 1,3-propanediol, and 1,4 butanediol are chosen to generate the first synthetic BEE matrix through melting polycondensation—a comparatively simple reaction scheme offering good control and the potential for low cost, large-scale production. A novel linear BEE, an almost non-crystalline copolyester elastomer with low glass transition temperature (Tg) containing double bonds is designed and synthesized using multiple monomers (to help suppress crystallization). Silica nanoparticles are then introduced into the BEE matrix to achieve significant strengthening and improved environmental stability. Chemical crosslinks formed by peroxide and the pendant double bonds in the copolyester macromolecules endow the BEE with both the necessary high elasticity and required environmental stability. The BEE nanocomposites obtained exhibit excellent thermomechanical properties, such as an ultimate tensile strength of 20 MPa.