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X-ray contrast variation in anion exchange membranes

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.Sc.
Date created
Hydroxide-exchange fuel cells have the potential to bring hydrogen power into the commercial mainstream by providing the benefits of proton-exchange cells with lower production costs. Achieving this potential depends on optimizing the anion exchange membranes (AEMs) which facilitate hydroxide transfer. To guide their development, a more detailed understanding of AEM morphology is sought. Determining how water is distributed throughout the membrane upon absorption is particularly important to understanding how these membranes function as ion conductors. Small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) is a proven technique for determining characteristic length scales within AEMs. However, SAXS measurements of some recently developed AEMs were unable to identify water-rich regions within hydrated membranes, and when these regions are detected they appear less distinct than corresponding regions within PEMs. It was hypothesized that there was insufficient contrast between the polymer backbones of AEMS and their water-rich regions, with the result that SAXS failed to fully resolve these structures. This thesis describes an investigation into the role of contrast in SAXS measurements of AEMs, which attempted to vary the contrast between water-rich and backbone-rich regions within the state-of-the-art AEM TMP-PMPI. Three methods of contrast variation were employed. One attempted to use organic solvents as contrast media, using these solvents to replace water as the membrane's liquid phase. Another employed anomalous scattering to vary the contrast of anions as a function of incident photon energy. The third method varied anion contrast by exchanging the membrane to different counter-ion forms. For each method, samples were prepared with different water contents to test whether the method clarified the changes the membrane undergoes as it took up water. These methods of contrast enhancement ultimately had minimal effect on the scattering features associated with phase separation, suggesting that the obscurity of these features has less to do with contrast than the intrinsic disorder of water regions in the membrane.
80 pages.
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Copyright is held by the author(s).
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Frisken, Barbara
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