Probing the Solubility of Imine-Based Covalent Adaptable Networks

Sybren Klaas Schoustra, Vahid Asadi, Maarten Marinus Johannes Smulders*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Covalent adaptable networks (CANs) are polymer materials that are covalently cross-linked via dynamic covalent bonds. The cross-linked polymer network is generally expected to be insoluble, as is seen for traditional thermosets. However, in recent years, it has become apparent that─under certain conditions─both dissociative and associative CANs can be dissolved in a good solvent. For some applications (e.g., those that require long-term (chemical) stability), the solubility of CANs can be problematic. However, many forget that (selective) solubility of CANs can also be applied advantageously, for example, in recycling or modification of the materials. In this work, we provide results and insights related to the tunable solubility of imine-based CANs. We observed that selected CANs could be fully dissolved in a good solvent without observing dissociation of imines. Only in an acidic environment (partial) dissociation of imines was observed, which could be reverted to the associated state by addition of a base. By adjusting the network composition, we were able to either facilitate or hamper solubility as well as control the size of the dissolved particles. DLS showed that the size of dissolved polymer particles decreased at lower concentrations. Similarly, decreasing cross-linking density resulted in smaller particles. Last, we showed that we could use the solubility of the CANs as a means for chemical recycling and postpolymerization modification. The combination of our studies with existing literature provides a better understanding of the solubility of CANs and their applications as recyclable thermosets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-89
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Polymer Materials
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2024


  • covalent adaptable networks
  • dynamic covalent chemistry
  • imines
  • polymer recycling
  • polymers
  • solubility


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