The development of morphological solid-state structures in sulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) copolymers (acid form) by hydrothermal treatment was investigated by water uptake, dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA), and tapping mode atomic force microscopy (TM-AFM). The water uptake and DMA studies suggested that the materials have three irreversible morphological regimes, whose intervals are controlled by copolymer composition and hydrothermal treatment temperature. Ambient temperature treatment of the membranes afforded a structure denoted as Regime1. When the copolymer membranes were exposed to a higher temperature, AFM revealed a morphology (Regime2) where the phase contrast and domain connectivity of the hydrophilic phase of the copolymers were greatly increased. A yet higher treatment temperature was defined which yielded a third regime, likely related to viscoelastic relaxations associated with the hydrated glass transition temperature (hydrated Tg). The required temperatures needed to produce transitions from Regime1 to Regime2 or Regime3 decreased with increasing degree of disulfonation. These temperatures correspond to the percolation and hydrogel temperatures, respectively. Poly(arylene ether sulfone) copolymer membranes with a 40% disulfonation in Regime2 under fully hydrated conditions showed similar proton conductivity (∼0.1 S/cm) to the well-known perfluorinated copolymer Nafion® 1135 but exhibited higher modulus and water uptake. The proton conductivity and storage modulus are discussed in terms of each of the morphological regimes and compared with Nafion 1135. The results are of particular interest for either hydrogen or direct methanol fuel cells where conductivity and membrane permeability are critical issues.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Organic Chemistry
- Polymers and Plastics
- Materials Chemistry