In the last few decades, a new generation of plastics called polybenzoxazines have emerged from the academic world into industries. These materials have become promising and sustainable alternatives to the existing resins used for example in high-performance materials for aeroplanes or rocket space fuselage. In contrast to the resins, polybenzoxazines do not produce toxic compounds and can be synthetized with bio-sourced elements (e.g. eugenol) rather than petroleum products.
On the occasion of the 4th International Symposium on Polybenzoxazines, organized by LIST, Laura Puchot and Pierre Verge, researchers in the Polymer Processing and Bio based Materials group, answered our 3 questions on the subject.
Due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, the organization committee has officially decided to postpone the 4th International Symposium on Polybenzoxazines, ISPBZ 2020, set to take place on 23-25 September, to 2-4 June 2021.
Polybenzoxazines are polymers - meaning a structure composed of large molecules - that belong to the plastics family known as thermosets. In other words, these components have the advantage of being highly resistant. Once they have been polymerized or transformed, these materials have very good thermal properties and are therefore very difficult to break or stretch. In sectors such as aeronautics or aerospace, this is precisely what we are looking for.
While other materials sharing the same properties produce toxic compounds, the one-component systems that benzoxazines belong to do not. In addition, they are mostly bio-sourced. Consequently, this opens up new opportunities for industries seeking sustainable and non-toxic alternatives in line with European legislation. For about 5 years now, these materials have also been the subject of many high-tech application developments under the name smart xazines. Indeed, they have self-repairing properties due to their ability to respond to a stimulus. These characteristics might also be of great interest to the aerospace, aeronautics or even biomedical sectors.
If polybenzoxazine research is widespread in China, or in the United States, this is not the case in Europe, where there are only six European institutes currently working on these polymers. As part of this network, LIST has dedicated research projects underway on the subject. Recently, LIST researchers filed a patent for a new type of benzoxazines at the intersection of thermosets and thermoplastics. Generally, once benzoxazines have been used, it is not possible to change them. Our research has enabled us to develop a new type of benzoxazines with the ability to change shape and self-heal. This is particularly useful in e.g. the production of composites. Moreover, these materials can be used to make complex parts, i.e. with complicated geometry, whereas current benzoxazines do not have this possibility.
The objective of the ISPBZ 2021 event is to propel polybenzoxazine activity in Europe, as well as bring together actors in this field, both from research institutions and industry. We will have the opportunity to learn about the expertise of eminent researchers, starting at the molecular level, with, for example, the synthesis of new benzoxazines and the study of their properties, all the way up to concrete industrial uses. This first European event will also be an opportunity to discuss benzoxazines as viable alternatives to existing resins with manufacturers, with a view to finding out how they use them or what they expect from this type of product.