Two-port transmission line technique for dielectric property characterization of polymer electrolyte membranes

Zijie Lu, Michael Lanagan, Evangelos Manias, Digby D. MacDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Performance improvements of perfluorosulfonic acid membranes, such as Nafion and Flemion, underline a need for dielectric characterization of these materials toward a quantitative understanding of the dynamics of water molecules and protons within the membranes. In this Article, a two-port transmission line technique for measuring the complex permittivity spectra of polymeric electrolytes in the microwave region is described, and the algorithms for permittivity determination are presented. The technique is experimentally validated with liquid water and polytertrafluoroethylene film, whose dielectric properties are well-known. Further, the permittivity spectra of dry and hydrated Flemion SH150 membranes are measured and compared to those of Nafion 117. Two water relaxation modes are observed in the microwave region (0.045-26 GHz) at 25 °C. The higher-frequency process observed is identified as the cooperative relaxation of bulk-like water, whose amount was found to increase linearly with water content in the polymer. The lower-frequency process, characterized by longer relaxation times in the range of 20-70 ps, is attributed to water molecules that are loosely bound to sulfonate groups. The loosely bound water amount was found to increase with hydration level at low water content and levels off at higher water contents. Flemion SH150, which has an equivalent weight of 909 g/equiv, displays higher dielectric strengths for both of these water modes as compared to Nafion 117 (equivalent weight of 1100 g/equiv), which probably reflects the effect of equivalent weight on the polymers' hydrated structure, and in particular its effect on the extended ionic cluster domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13551-13559
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 15 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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