This thesis reports the synthesis and study of a new class of fluorine-free, acid-bearing polymers for potential usage in proton exchange membrane fuel cells. The polymers were prepared via the synthesis of a pre-sulfonated monomer, followed by homo- and co-polymerization by [4+2] Diels-Alder cycloaddition. Molecular structures were determined by mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, 1H NMR and 2D COSY spectroscopies, and single crystal X-ray diffraction. Disulfonated tetracyclone and tetrasulfonated bistetracyclone molecules were used to synthesize two model compounds to determine the potential isomers present. Tetrasulfonated bistetracyclone was polymerized with 1,4-diethynylbenzene co-monomer. The resultant polymer, sPPP-HNEt3+, was prepared with a high molecular weight and converted into its acid form, prior to casting as a membrane. The membranes possessed a high ion exchange capacity (IEC) of 3.49 meq/g and a proton conductivity of 118 mS/cm at room temperature and at 95% relative humidity (RH), respectively, four and a half time superior as the current benchmark NRE 211®. The polymer film was found to become soluble during exposure to aggressive oxidative solutions no significant chemical changes were observed. The final part of this work focused on increasing the polymer film stability by judiciously tuning the hydrophilic content of the polymer. A family of random-copolymers was prepared based on the above monomers. The parameters for polymerization were studied and the optimal conditions were found using size exclusion chromatography to determine molecular weight. The measured IEC for these copolymers correlated well with the theoretical IEC, ranging from 1.86 to 3.50 meq/g. The conductivity of these polymers at 80°C and 95% RH was found to reach 338 mS/cm. Fuel cell tests were performed using the membranes and provided a peak power density of 770 mW/cm2.
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Thesis advisor: Holcroft, Steven
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