Water Uptake in an Anion Exchange Membrane Based on Polyamine: A First- Principles Study

E Tomasino and B Mukherjee and N Ataollahi and P Scardi, JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B (2022).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.2c04115

An atomistic level study of a single monomer of polyamine interacting with water molecules and hydroxide anions (OH-) was carried out to investigate the role of the polyamine structure in the hydrated morphology of anion exchange membranes (AEMs) for alkaline fuel cells and its influence on ionic conductivity and chemical stability. DFT calculations were performed to find the ground state of the system, studying the interactions of the solvent species with three different regions of the polymer -the amine functional group, the backbone, and the carbonyl group. The hydrophilic/hydrophobic behavior of each segment was determined, with calculated binding energies and Bader charge analysis providing a more quantitative analysis of the interactions and activation and reaction energies computed to investigate the chemical degradation mechanism. The results show the tendency of both OH- and water molecules to form water clusters in the proximity of the ionized amine group. As such, these regions constitute the preferential pathway for ionic conductivity. Besides, the essential role of the water content is pointed out, not only to enhance conductivity but also to reduce degradation in an alkaline environment. The present work provides a baseline to assess the impact of polymer chemistry on the ionic conductivity of the membrane and acts as the first step for the development of high-performance AEMs and for an improvement of the overall performance of the fuel cell.

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