Highly stable, anion conductive, comb-shaped copolymers for alkaline fuel cells

Nanwen Li, Yongjun Leng, Michael A. Hickner, Chao Yang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

474 Scopus citations


To produce an anion-conductive and durable polymer electrolyte for alkaline fuel cell applications, a series of quaternized poly(2,6-dimethyl phenylene oxide)s containing long alkyl side chains pendant to the nitrogen-centered cation were synthesized using a Menshutkin reaction to form comb-shaped structures. The pendant alkyl chains were responsible for the development of highly conductive ionic domains, as confirmed by small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). The comb-shaped polymers having one alkyl side chain showed higher hydroxide conductivities than those with benzyltrimethyl ammonium moieties or structures with more than one alkyl side chain per cationic site. The highest conductivity was observed for comb-shaped polymers with benzyldimethylhexadecyl ammonium cations. The chemical stabilities of the comb-shaped membranes were evaluated under severe, accelerated-aging conditions, and degradation was observed by measuring IEC and ion conductivity changes during aging. The comb-shaped membranes retained their high ion conductivity in 1 M NaOH at 80 C for 2000 h. These cationic polymers were employed as ionomers in catalyst layers for alkaline fuel cells. The results indicated that the C-16 alkyl side chain ionomer had a slightly better initial performance, despite its low IEC value, but very poor durability in the fuel cell. In contrast, 90% of the initial performance was retained for the alkaline fuel cell with electrodes containing the C-6 side chain after 60 h of fuel cell operation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10124-10133
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 10 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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