Highly conductive and durable poly(arylene ether sulfone) anion exchange membrane with end-group cross-linking†
Here, we demonstrate the improved electrochemical performance and stability of end-group cross-linked anion exchange membranes (AEM) for the first time via the introduction of imidazolium groups in poly(arylene ether sulfone) (Imd-PAES). A novel feature of the cross-linking reaction is that basic additives are not required to prevent gelation with the cationic functional groups. In this work, the sodium salt of 3-hydroxyphenylacetylene acted directly as the end-group cross-linker, and it was cross-linked by thermal treatment at 180 °C. The gel fraction and hydroxide conductivity of the cross-linked membranes (XE-Imds) depended on the cross-linking temperature and time. The prepared XE-Imd70 (70 refers to the degree of functionalization) membranes with an ion exchange capacity (IEC) of 2.2 meq g−1 achieved a high hydroxide conductivity (107 mS cm−1). This material also showed good single cell performance (XE-Imd70: 202 mA cm−2 at 0.6 V and a maximum power density of 196.1 mW cm−2) at 80 °C, 100% relative humidity (RH), and improved durability and alkaline stability. The excellent hydroxide conductivity and electrochemical performance of XE-Imd70 was due to the fact that the ion cluster size of XE-Imd membranes was larger (12.1–14 nm) than that of E-Imd (5.5–8.14 nm), indicating that XE-Imd membranes have a closely associated ion-clustered morphology, which was confirmed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) measurements.