Amorphous zirconium phosphate sulfophenylenphosphonates (Zr(HPO4)2−x(SPP)x, where SPP = O3PC6H4SO3H and 0.5 ≤
≤ 1.3) were precipitated from solutions of zirconyl chloride, H3PO4 and H2SPP and characterised by thermogravimetric analysis, solid state NMR and impedance measurements. Zr(HPO4)0.7(SPP)1.3 showed the highest proton conductivity (0.07 S cm−1 at 20 °C, 90% relative humidity) and turned out to be suitable to form a gel in dimethylformamide (DMF) containing about 7 wt% solid phase. The gel was used to prepare composite membranes of sulfonated polyetherketone (I. E. C. = 0.95 meq g−1) filled with 10 and 20 wt% Zr(HPO4)0.7(SPP)1.3. SEM pictures showed that the composite membranes are dense and homogeneous with filler particles not larger than 200 nm. The proton conductivity of both composite membranes and that of a pure s-PEK membrane was determined as a function of temperature up to 150 °C, at 90% relative humidity, by means of the impedance technique. While the conductivity of the s-PEK membrane was nearly constant within the overall temperature range (7–9 × 10−4 S cm−1), the conductivity of the composite membranes was independent of temperature up to 110 °C but at higher temperatures it decreased to a value approaching the conductivity of s-PEK. In the range 80–110 °C, the conductivity of the composite membrane with 20 wt% Zr(HPO4)0.7(SPP)1.3 was around 8 × 10−3 S cm−1. The possibility that the increase of conductivity arises from the presence of filler rich and/or filler continuous conduction pathways is discussed.
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