Anion exchange membranes containing no β-hydrogen atoms on ammonium groups: synthesis, properties, and alkaline stability†
Novel anion conductive polymer membranes have been designed and synthesized to investigate whether the absence of β-hydrogen atoms of ammonium groups affects the membranes' properties and chemical stability. The hydrophilic monomer, 2,2-bis(4-chlorobenzyl)-2-phenyl-ethylamine (3), was obtained via a two-step reaction with an overall yield of 98% under mild reaction conditions. Ni(0)-promoted copolymerization of 3 with 2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)hexafluoropropane (1) afforded high molecular weight copolymers (Mn = 12.8–19.6 kDa, Mw = 82.1–224.6 kDa). After quaternization with iodomethane, QBAF-BS polymers formed bendable, robust membranes from solution casting. The ion exchange capacity (IEC) of the membranes ranged from 1.50 to 2.44 mequiv. g−1. The membranes exhibited high hydroxide ion conductivity in water (up to 191 mS cm−1 at 80 °C for IEC = 2.25 mequiv. g−1), suggesting that the newly designed hydrophilic structure was effective in improving the ion conductivity. Based on small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) analyses and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images, all membranes featured nano-phase separated morphology with a large dependence on the copolymer composition. The strain properties were improved on increasing the content of the hydrophilic component up to IEC = 2.25 mequiv. g−1, above which the strain became smaller due to the larger water absorption. The membranes were not stable under harsh alkaline conditions (in 8 M KOH at 80 °C) gradually losing the hydroxide ion conductivity. Compared to our previous AEMs which contained typical aliphatic ammonium groups, the lack of β-hydrogen atoms did not practically improve the alkaline stability of AEMs possibly due to the main chain degradation but contributed to higher ion conductivity.