Dihydrogenimidazole modified silica-sulfonated poly(ether ether ketone) hybrid materials as electrolyte membranes for direct ethanol fuel cells
The present study reports on dihydrogenimidazole modified inorganic-organic mixed matrix membranes for possible application as a proton exchange membrane in direct ethanol fuel cells. The polymeric phase consisted mainly of sulfonated poly(ether ether ketone) (sPEEK) with a sulfonation degree of 55%. The inorganic phase was built up from hydrophilic fumed silica particles interconnected with partially hydrolyzed and condensed tetraethoxysilane with a total inorganic loading of 27.3%. This inorganic phase was further modified with N-(3-triethoxysilylpropyl)-4,5-dihydroimidazole (DHIM), which consists of an hydrolyzable inorganic part and a functional organic group. The influence of the modifier on the mixed matrix system was studied by means of various modifier concentrations in various aqueous-ethanolic systems (water, 2 M and 4 M ethanol). Modifier concentration and ethanol concentration of the ethanol-water mixture exhibited significant but opposite effects on the liq uid uptake of the mixed matrix membranes. The proton conductivity as well as the proton diffusion coefficient as a function of modifier content showed a linear decrease. The proton conductivity as a function of temperature showed Arrhenius behavior and the activation energy of the mixed matrix membranes was 43.9 ± 2.6 kJ mol-1. High selectivity of proton diffusion coefficient to ethanol permeability coefficient was obtained with high modifier concentrations. At low modifier concentrations, this selectivity was dominated by ethanol permeation and at high modifier concentrations by proton diffusion. The main electrolyte properties can be optimized by setting the DHIM content in mixed matrix membrane. With this approach, tailor-made membranes can be prepared for possible application in direct ethanol fuel cells.