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Non-fluorinated pre-irradiation-grafted (peroxidated) LDPE-based anion-exchange membranes with high performance and stability

Wang, Lianqin, Brink, JJ, Liu, Y, Herring, AM, Ponce-González, J, Whelligan, Daniel and Varcoe, John (2017) Non-fluorinated pre-irradiation-grafted (peroxidated) LDPE-based anion-exchange membranes with high performance and stability Energy & Environmental Science.

2017-08-18 LDPE PAPER RESUBMISSION.pdf - Accepted version Manuscript

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2017-08-18 LDPE ESI RESUBMISSION.pdf - Accepted version Manuscript

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Radiation-grafted anion-exchange membrane (RG-AEM) research has predominantly focused on the chemical stability of the polymer-bound positively-charged head-groups that enable anion conduction. The effect of the backbone polymer chemistry, of the precursor film, on RG-AEM stability has been studied to a lesser extent and not for RG-AEMs made from pre-irradiation grafting of polymer films in air (peroxidation). The mechanical strength of polymer films is generally weakened by exposure to high radiation doses (e.g. from a high-energy e–-beam) and this is mediated by chemical degradation of the main chains: fluorinated films mechanically weaken at lower absorbed doses compared to nonfluorinated films. This study systematically compares the performance difference between RG-AEMs synthesised from a non-fluorinated polymer film (low-density polyethylene – LDPE) and a partially-fluorinated polymer film (poly(ethylene-cotetrafluoroethylene) – ETFE) using the peroxidation method (pre-irradiation in air using an e–-beam). Both the LDPE and ETFE precursor films used were 25 μm in thickness, which led to RG-AEMs of hydrated thicknesses in the range 52 – 60 μm. The RG-AEMs (designated LDPE-AEM and ETFE-AEM, respectively) all contained identical covalently-bound benzyltrimethylammonium (BTMA) cationic head-groups. An LDPE-AEM achieved a OH– anion conductivity of 145 mS cm-1 at 80 °C in a 95% relative humidity environment and a chloride Cl– anion conductivity of 76 mS cm-1 at 80 °C when fully hydrated. Alkali stability testing showed that the LDPE-AEM mechanically weakened to a much lower extent when treated in aqueous alkaline solution compared to the ETFE-AEM. This LDPE-AEM outperformed the ETFE-AEM in H2/O2 anionexchange membrane fuel cell (AEMFC) tests due to high anion conductivity and enhanced in situ water transport (due to the lower density of the LDPE precursor): a maximum power density of 1.45 W cm-2 at 80 °C was achieved with an LDPE-AEM alongside a Pt-based anode and cathode (cf. 1.21 mW cm-2 for the benchmark ETFE-AEM). The development of more mechanically robust RG-AEMs has, for the first time, led to the ability to routinely test them in fuel cells at 80 °C (cf. 60 °C was the prior maximum temperature that could be routinely used with ETFE-based RG-AEMs). This development facilitates the application of non-Pt catalysts: 931 mW cm-2 was obtained with the use of a Ag/C cathode at 80 °C and a Ag loading of 0.8 mg cm-2 (only 711 mW cm-2 was obtained at 60 °C). This first report on the synthesis of large batch size LDPE-based RGAEMs, using the commercially amenable peroxidation-type radiation-grafting process, concludes that the resulting LDPEAEMs are superior to ETFE-AEMs (for the intended applications).

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences > Chemistry
Authors :
Date : 24 August 2017
Funders : EPSRC
Identification Number : 10.1039/C7EE02053H
Copyright Disclaimer : Copyright 2017 The Author(s). This is the author's accepted version of a paper to be published in Energy & Environmental Science, under a Creative Commons License.
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Melanie Hughes
Date Deposited : 25 Aug 2017 14:47
Last Modified : 25 Aug 2017 15:49

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