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Keywords:

  • block copolymers;
  • fuel cells;
  • membranes;
  • ionomers;
  • proton conductivity

Abstract

The morphologies and proton-transport efficiencies of segmented copoly(arylene ether sulfone) ionomers that contain tetrasulfonated sequences are compared with the corresponding copolymers with disulfonated sequences. Tetrasulfonated 4,4′-bis[(4-chlorophenyl)sulfonyl]-1,1′-biphenyl (sBCPSBP) is synthesized by metalation and sulfination. This new monomer is then used in K2CO3-mediated polycondensations of mixtures with 4,4′-dichlorodiphenyl sulfone (DCDPS) and 4,4′-dihydroxybiphenyl in dimethyl sulfoxide at 110 °C to prepare segmented copolymers with tetrasulfonated units. The corresponding disulfonated copolymers are prepared by using disulfonated DCDPS instead of sBCPSBP. Small-angle X-ray scattering measurements of the fully aromatic copolymer membranes show ionomer peaks that indicate significantly larger characteristic separation lengths of the tetrasulfonated copolymers compared to those of the corresponding disulfonated copolymers with similar ionic contents. This implies a much more efficient phase separation of the ionic groups in the segmented tetrasulfonated copolymer membranes, especially at low-to-medium ionic contents. The enhanced phase separation has a pronounced positive effect on water uptake characteristics and proton transport properties. Under a reduced relative humidity (RH), the tetrasulfonated copolymer membranes show a significantly higher conductivity than the disulfonated ones, particularly at low-to-medium ionic contents. At an ion-exchange capacity of 1 meq g−1, the conductivity of the tetrasulfonated copolymer membrane at 30 % RH is higher than that of the disulfonated membrane at 90 % RH. Because of their relative ease of synthesis, segmented copolymers based on well-designed multisulfonated monomers may provide a viable alternative to the more complex sulfonated block and graft copolymers for use as fuel-cell membranes.