Sulfonated silica-based electrolyte nanocomposite membranes



New functionalized particles were prepared by attaching sulfonated aromatic bishydroxy compounds onto fumed silica surface. First, a bromophenyl group was introduced onto the silica surface by reaction of bromophenyltrimethoxysilane with fumed silica. Then, sulfonated bishydroxy aromatic compounds were chemically attached to the silica surface by nucleophilic substitution reactions. The structure of the modified silica was characterized by elemental analysis: 13C-NMR, 29Si-NMR, and FTIR. Afterward, novel inorganic–organic electrolyte composite membranes based on sulfonated poly(ether ether ketone) have been developed using the sulfonated aromatic bishydroxy compounds chemically attached onto the fumed silica surface. The composite membrane prepared using silica with sulfonated hydroxytelechelic, containing 1,3,4-oxadiazole units, has higher proton conductivity values in all range of temperatures (40–140 °C) than the membrane containing only the plain electrolyte polymer, while the methanol permeability determined by pervaporation experiment was unchanged. A proton conductivity up to 59 mS cm−1 at 140 °C was obtained. The combination of these effects may lead to significant improvement in fuel cells (fed with hydrogen or methanol) at temperatures above 100 °C. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part B: Polym Phys 44: 2278–2298, 2006