Novel anhydrous superprotonic ionic liquids and membranes for application in mid-temperature fuel cells
This thesis studies three different types of anhydrous proton conducting electrolytes for use in fuel cells. The proton energy level scheme is used to make the first electrolyte which is a rubbery polymer in which the conductivity reaches values typical of activated Nafion, even though it is completely anhydrous. The protons are introduced into a cross-linked polyphospazene rubber by the superacid HOTf, which is absorbed by partial protonation of the backbone nitrogens. The decoupling of conductivity from segmental relaxation times assessed by comparison with conductivity relaxation times amounts to some 10 orders of magnitude, but it cannot be concluded whether it is purely protonic or due equally to a mobile OTf- or H(OTf)2-; component. The second electrolyte is built on the success of phosphoric acid as a fuel cell electrolyte, by designing a variant of the molecular acid that has increased temperature range without sacrifice of high temperature conductivity or open circuit voltage. The success is achieved by introduction of a hybrid component, based on silicon coordination of phosphate groups, which prevents decomposition or water loss to 250ºC, while enhancing free proton motion. Conductivity studies are reported to 285ºC and full H2/O2 cell polarization curves to 226ºC. The current efficiency reported here (current density per unit of fuel supplied per sec) is the highest on record. A power density of 184 (mW.cm-2) is achieved at 226ºC with hydrogen flow rate of 4.1 ml/minute. The third electrolyte is a novel type of ionic liquids which is made by addition of a super strong Brønsted acid to a super weak Brønsted base. Here it is shown that by allowing the proton of transient HAlCl4, to relocate on a very weak base that is also stable to superacids, we can create an anhydrous ionic liquid, itself a superacid, in which the proton is so loosely bound that at least 50% of the electrical conductivity is due to the motion of free protons. The protic ionic liquids (PILs) described, pentafluoropyridinium tetrachloroaluminate and 5-chloro-2,4,6-trifluoropyrimidinium tetrachloroaluminate, might be the forerunner of a class of materials in which the proton plasma state can be approached.