Polymer Engineering Faculty Research

Morphology Control of Sulfonated Poly(ether ketone ketone)/poly(ether imide) blends and their use in Proton-Exchange Membranes

Robert Weiss, The University of Akron


Polymer blends based on sulfonated poly(ether ketone ketone) (SPEKK) as the proton-conducting component and poly(ether imide) (PEI) as the second component were considered for proton-exchange membranes (PEMs). The PEI was added to improve the mechanical stability and lower the water swelling in the fuel cell environment. Membranes were cast from solution using N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) and dimethylacetamide (DMAc). The ternary, polymer/polymer/solvent, phase diagram was determined to provide guidance on how to control the morphology during solvent casting of blend membranes. For blends of SPEKK (ion-exchange capacity = 2 mequiv/g) with PEI as the minority component, the morphology consisted of dispersed particles of ∼0.5–6 μm. Larger particles were achieved by increasing the PEI content and/or lowering the casting temperature. High-temperature annealing after solution casting did not affect the morphology of blend membranes, due to the low mobility and compatibility of the two polymers. The possible use of SPEKK/PEI blends in PEMs is discussed in terms of existing theories of ion transport in polymers.