Characterization of Structure-Property Relationships in Hydrophilic-Hydrophobic Multiblock Copolymers for Use in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells


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Virginia Tech


Proton exchange membrane fuels cells (PEMFCs) are one of the primary alternatives to internal combustion engines. The key component is the proton exchange membrane, or PEM, which should meet a number of requirements, including good proton conductivity under partially humidified conditions. A number of alternative PEMs have been synthesized by copolymerizing various aromatic comonomers, but the smaller ion channels prohibit rapid proton transport under partially hydrated conditions. One solution has been to synthesize multiblock copolymers from hydrophilic and hydrophobic oligomers to ensure sufficient ion channel size.

Four multiblock systems were synthesized from hydrophobic and hydrophilic oligomers and were characterized in this thesis. The first multiblock system incorporated a partially fluorinated monomer into the hydrophobic block, to improve phase separation and performance under partially humidified conditions. The second study was focused on phase separation and structure-property relationships as a function of casting conditions of a biphenol-based multiblock series.

The third study featured a novel hydroquinone-based hydrophilic oligomer in the multiblock copolymer, which showed the promise of a higher ionic density, degree of phase separation and proton conductivity values. The fourth study in this thesis entailed the comparison of a block copolymer produced with two distinct synthetic routes: the multiblock synthesis from separate oligomers as previously published in the literature, and a segmented route seeking to achieve comparable structure-property relationships with the same monomers, but using a simpler synthetic route. The two block copolymer series were found to be comparable in their structure-property relationships.



proton exchange membrane, hydrogen fuel cell, multiblock copolymers, proton conducting materials