Polymer Engineering Faculty Research


Incorporation of Hyperbranched Supramolecules into Nafion Ionomer Domains through Impregnation and in-situ Photopolymerization

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Nafion membranes were impregnated with photocurable supramolecules, viz., hyperbranched polyester having pendant functional carboxylic acid groups (HBPEAc-COOH) by swelling in methanol and subsequently photocured in-situ after drying. Structure-property relationships of the HBPEAc-COOH impregnated Nafion membranes were analyzed on the basis of Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (SSNMR) and dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA). FTIR and SSNMR investigations revealed that about 7 wt % of HBPEAc-COOH was actually incorporated into the ionic domains of Nafion. The FTIR study suggests possible complexation via inter-species hydrogen bonding between the carboxylic groups of HBPEAc-COOH and the sulfonate groups of Nafion. The α-relaxation peak corresponding to the glass transition temperature of the ionic domains of the neat Nafion-acid form was found to increase from ~100 to ~130 °C upon impregnation with enhanced modulus afforded by the cured polyester network within the ionic domains. The AC impedance fuel cell measurement of the impregnated membrane exhibited an increasing trend of proton conductivity with increasing temperature, which eventually surpassed that of neat Nafion above 100 °C. Of particular importance is that the present paper is the first to successfully incorporate polymer molecules/networks into the Nafion ionic domains by means of impregnation with hyperbranched supramolecules followed by in-situ photopolymerization.

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