Urethane groups formed by reacting phenolic hydroxyl groups with isocyanates are known to be reversible at high temperatures. To investigate the intrinsic self-healing of polyurethane via a reversible urethane group, we synthesized vanillyl alcohol (VA)-based polyurethanes. The phenolic hydroxyl group of vanillyl alcohol allows the introduction of a reversible urethane group into the polyurethane backbone. Particularly, we investigated the effects of varying the concentration of reversible urethane groups on the self-healing of the polyurethane, and we proposed a method that improved the mobility of the molecules contributing to the self-healing process. The concentration of reversible urethane groups in the polyurethanes was controlled by varying the vanillyl alcohol content. Increasing the concentration of the reversible urethane group worsened the self-healing property by increasing hydrogen bonding and microphase separation, which consequently decreased the molecular mobility. On the other hand, after formulating a modified chain extender (m-CE), hydrogen bonding and microphase separation decreased, and the mobility (and hence the self-healing efficiency) of the molecules improved. In VA40-10 (40% VA; 10% m-CE) heated to 140 °C, the self-healing efficiency reached 96.5% after 30 min, a 139% improvement over the control polyurethane elastomer (PU). We conclude that the self-healing and mechanical properties of polyurethanes might be tailored for applications by adjusting the vanillyl alcohol content and modifying the chain extender.
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