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Title: Poly(p-Phenylene Sulfonic Acids). PEMs with frozen-in free volume

Early work with rigid rod aromatic polyelectrolytes implied that steric hindrance in packing of the rigid rods left unoccupied volumes that could absorb and hold water molecules strongly. We called this “frozen in free volume). It is illustrated and contrasted with the packing of flexible backbone polyelectrolytes (Reference 5 of this report). This was quantified for poly(biphenylene disulfonic acid) (PBDSA) and poly(phenylene disulfonic acid) (PPDSA). We found that PPDSA held three water molecules per acid group down to 11% relative humidity (RH) and had very high conductivity even at these low RHs. (Reference 1 of report.) The frozen-in free volume was calculated to be equivalent to a λ of 3.5. The work reported below concentrated on studying these polymers and their copolymers with biphenylene disulfonic acid. As expected, the polyelectrolytes are water soluble. Several approaches towards making water stable films were studied. Grafting alkyl benzene substituents on sulfonic acid groups had worked for PBPDSA (1) so it was tried with PPDSA and a 20%/80% copolymer of BPDSA and PDSA (B20P80). T-butyl, n-octyl and n-dodecyl benzene were grafted. Good films could be made. Water absorption and conductivity were studied as a function of RH and temperature (Reference 2). When less thanmore » 20% of the sulfonic acid groups were grafted, conductivity was much higher than that of Nafion NR212 at all RHs. At low graft levels, conductivity was ten times higher. Mechanical properties and swelling were acceptable below 90% RH. However, all the films were unstable in water and slowly disintegrated. The proposed explanation was that the molecules formed nano-aggregates in solution held together by hydrophobic bonding. Their cast films disintegrated when placed in water since hydrophobic bonding between the nano-aggregates was poor. We then shifted to crosslinking as a method to produce water stable films (References 3 and 4). Biphenyl could easily be reacted with the polymer, generating biphenyl sulfone grafts. Films were cast and then crosslinked by heating to 210°C for at least one hour. There was no loss of acid groups even after heating at 225°C for two hours. PPDSA and B20P80 polymers were grafted and crosslinked. Conductivity and water absorption were measured on polymers with grafting degrees from 3 to 16%. As before they all had much higher conductivity than Nafion NR212. One sample was tested as a fuel cell membrane. Unfortunately it tore; the tear was mended with a 3M ionomer. There was some hydrogen leakage. However, the current at a given voltage was about 95% that of a Nafion NR212 membrane over the whole useful range. Considering that this was the first test for such a system, this is remarkable performance. A mechanically better membrane was tested at the end of the grant period. This did not have tears or micro cracks (Reference 5). Testing confirmed earlier data (Sergio Granados-Focil, Ph. D. Thesis, CWRU. 2006) that such very polar membranes were excellent barriers to hydrogen diffusion. Standard measurements showed no hydrogen leakage. This was confirmed by open circuit voltage measurements. They were higher than those of the Nafion NR212 cells. Again the single cell performance was about 95% that of the Nafion SR212 cell over the whole range. These films show great promise. They are very stable and perform very well at very low humidity. They should be able to outperform the present cells with relatively little further development. A second project is reported fully in the final report since it was not published. Its goal was to make membranes with high conductivity and good mechanical strength that would have a constant volume at all RHs. We made large planar 2-D polymers containing 1.5 nm holes lined with sulfonic acid groups. These should hold water very strongly. The largest made was calculated to have a number average diameter of 29 nm. It was expected that when they were cast, they would aggregate and create channels for proton conduction. However, they were so large that they aggregated in solution during preparation. Measurements showed that the aggregates developed long channels. This was demonstrated and is reported. Unfortunately, the aggregates could not be cast with the channels perpendicular to the film plane. If methods are developed to keep the molecules in solution until they are cast, their planes should be parallel and the channels perpendicular to the film direction. They could be very interesting and perhaps important materials.« less
  1. Case Western Reserve Univ., Cleveland, OH (United States)
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Technical Report
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Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH (United States)
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Country of Publication:
United States
25 ENERGY STORAGE rigid rod; PBDSA; PPDSA; PBPDSA; BPDSA; PDSA; proton exchange membrane; fuel cell; low relative humidity; high temperature