INVESTIGATION OF PERFORMANCE AND DURABILITY OF POLYMER ELECTROLYTES FOR ELECTROCHEMICAL ENERGY STORAGE AND CONVERSION TECHNOLOGIES
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Polymeric ion exchange membranes are integral components of electrochemical conversion/storage devices such as fuel cells, water electrolyzers, and redox flow batteries. There has been dramatic progress in the research and development of cation exchange membranes (CEM). Nafion® (perfluorosulfonic acid membranes) is one example of a state-of-the-art CEM and has been successfully demonstrated in various electrochemical energy devices. Unlike CEMs, anion exchange membranes (AEMs) have been of limited utility to date due to their drawbacks, including poor chemical/mechanical stability and low ionic conductivity. However, alkaline environments result in better activity for electrochemical reactions and afford the possibility of using non-platinum group metal (PGM) electrocatalysts. AEMs, therefore, are still being studied in order to resolve existing challenges in terms of conductivity and stability in alkaline media and in strongly oxidizing solutions. In this work, AEMs derived from different types of polymer backbones were prepared, and their chemical stability and electrochemical property were investigated. Polysulfone (PSF) AEMs were prepared by first chloromethylating polysulfone, then by functionalizing chloromethylated polysulfone (CMPSF) with different base reagents. PSF-trimethylamine (TMA) AEMs showed a 40-fold reduction in vanadium (IV) ion (VO2+) permeability when compared to a Nafion® membrane and exceptional oxidative stability after exposure to a 1.5 M vanadium (V) ion (VO2 +) solution for 90 days. PSF-TMA AEMs were successfully demonstrated in the all-vanadium redox flow battery. Excellent energy efficiencies (>75 %) were attained and sustained over 75 chargedischarge cycles for a vanadium redox flow battery prepared using the PSF-TMA separator. Crosslinking of poly(2,6-dimethyl-1,4-phenylene oxide) (PPO) AEMs using diamine was tried with intentions to improve the mechanical stability and electrochemical property of PPO AEM. Crosslinked PPO AEMs (30 ± 4 % at 25 oC) showed less liquid water uptake than non-crosslinked PPO AEMs (46 ± 5% at 25 oC) while maintaining comparable ionic conductivities (hydroxide ion conductivity of 45 mS/cm at 60 oC). Crosslinked PPO AEMs maintained mechanical integrity and still showed some mechanical stability (ultimate tensile strength of 3~4 MPa and elongation at break of 13~17 %) after exposure to 1 M KOH at 60 oC for 14 days, while noncrosslinked PPO AEMs completely lost their mechanical durability. Finally, this dissertation presents research related to perfluorinated AEMs prepared using a Grignard reagent. These membranes exhibited 0.7 mmol/g of Cl- ion exchange capacity (IEC), 20 mS/cm of hydroxide ion conductivity at 20 oC, and 10 % of water uptake at room temperature. The membranes also maintained 90 % of their initial conductivity after an exposure to 1.5 M VO2+ in 3 M H2SO4 solution for seven days.