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Management of the plastic industry is a momentous challenge, one that pits enormous societal benefits against an accumulating reservoir of nearly indestructible waste. A promising strategy for recycling polyethylene (PE) and isotactic polypropylene ( i PP), constituting roughly half the plastic produced annually worldwide, is melt blending for reformulation into useful products. Unfortunately, such blends are generally brittle and useless due to phase separation and mechanically weak domain interfaces. Recent studies have shown that addition of small amounts of semicrystalline PE- i PP block copolymers (ca. 1 wt%) to mixtures of these polyolefins results in ductility comparable to the pure materials. However, current methods for producing such additives rely on expensive reagents, prohibitively impacting the cost of recycling these inexpensive commodity plastics. Here, we describe an alternative strategy that exploits anionic polymerization of butadiene into block copolymers, with subsequent catalytic hydrogenation, yielding E and X blocks that are individually melt miscible with PE and i PP, where E and X are poly(ethylene- ran -ethylethylene) random copolymers with 6 wt% and 90 wt% ethylethylene repeat units, respectively. Cooling melt blended mixtures of PE and i PP containing 1 wt% of the triblock copolymer EXE of appropriate molecular weight, results in mechanical properties competitive with the component plastics. Blend toughness is obtained through interfacial topological entanglements of the amorphous X polymer and semicrystalline i PP, along with anchoring of the E blocks through cocrystallization with the PE homopolymer. Significantly, EXE can be inexpensively produced using currently practiced industrial scale polymerization methods, offering a practical approach to recycling the world’s top two plastics.more » « lessFree, publicly-accessible full text available August 22, 2024
Cartilage is difficult to self‐repair and it is more challenging to repair an osteochondral defects concerning both cartilage and subchondral bone. Herein, it is hypothesized that a bilayered porous scaffold composed of a biomimetic gelatin hydrogel may, despite no external seeding cells, induce osteochondral regeneration in vivo after being implanted into mammal joints. This idea is confirmed based on the successful continuous 3D‐printing of the bilayered scaffolds combined with the sol‐gel transition of the aqueous solution of a gelatin derivative (physical gelation) and photocrosslinking of the gelatin methacryloyl (gelMA) macromonomers (chemical gelation). At the direct printing step, a nascent physical hydrogel is extruded, taking advantage of non‐Newtonian and thermoresponsive rheological properties of this 3D‐printing ink. In particular, a series of crosslinked gelMA (GelMA) and GelMA‐hydroxyapatite bilayered hydrogel scaffolds are fabricated to evaluate the influence of the spacing of 3D‐printed filaments on osteochondral regeneration in a rabbit model. The moderately spaced scaffolds output excellent regeneration of cartilage with cartilaginous lacunae and formation of subchondral bone. Thus, tricky rheological behaviors of soft matter can be employed to improve 3D‐printing, and the bilayered hybrid scaffold resulting from the continuous 3D‐printing is promising as a biomaterial to regenerate articular cartilage.