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Accessing pluripotent materials through tempering of dynamic covalent polymer networks

Inspired by pluripotent stem cells, that can be differentiated into a range of cells, a synthetic, pluripotent plastic has been developed (Figure A). This material can be tempered (isothermal heating before rapidly quenching) at various temperatures to access a range of room temperature properties from hard and stiff to soft and extensible (Figure B). With this ability, the materials can be used, reused, and recycled (Figure C) to access a range of common, plastic properties. Through choice of the tempering temperature, it is possible to access stiff robust materials that can used to make utensils (i.e., spoon) or soft extensible shape memory materials that can actuate and lift weights (Figure A). In addition, the materials can be tempered to have a different function. For example, the material tempered at 60 °C is stiff and can be utilized as a spoon (Figure A) but it fails as an adhesive (Figure D). However, by tempering at 110 °C the material is now soft and extensible at room temperature and can be used as a pressure-sensitive adhesive (Figure E). We also show that these materials can be differentially (or spatially) tempered (akin to the process to make swords) to access single films that have regions that are soft/extensible and regions that are have  stiff/high-strength properties (Figure F).