Polymer Engineering Faculty Research


Investigation of nanostructures and properties of sulfonated poly (arylenethioethersulfone) copolymer as proton conducting materials by small angle neutron scattering

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Sulfonated poly(arylenethioethersulfone) copolymer (SPTES-50), a promising candidate material for proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), exhibited excellent thermal stability, high proton conductivity (135 mS/cm at 85 °C, 85% relative humidity), and electrochemical property. Small angle neutron scattering (SANS) of fully hydrated SPTES-50 membranes revealed the presence of embedded spherical nanodomains containing ionic group and water within the polymer membranes. The polydispersity of the nanoscale structure limited scattering contrast between the polymer backbone and sulfonated groups, and precluded analysis of intermediate and large scattering vectors in terms of the polymer–water interface structure. Inter-cluster correlations associated with the large extent of water absorption in the fully hydrated SPTES-50 membranes were accounted by Percus–Yevick liquid-like ordering of polydispersed hard sphere model with Schulz polydispersity approximation. Approximation of their low q upturn with an exponential decay results in a decay of −3 at 25 °C accounted for inter-cluster correlations which changed to a decay of −1.1 at 55 °C and 77 °C. This indicated a change in morphology upon increase of temperature such as to fractal morphology or an interconnected cylindrical network. The scattering patterns don't exhibit any further changes within examined range of q when the temperature increased from 55 °C to 77 °C. The number density of ionic clusters remained approximately constant (∼1.1818 × 1017 cm3), which indicated that additional water adsorbed by the polymer at the elevated temperature did not result in substantial coalescence of the clusters. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) observation of the silver exchanged SPTES-50 membranes exhibited aggregates of Ag+ embedded within the dry membranes which can be approximated by isolated spheres.

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