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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evolution of Ionomer Morphology from Dispersion to Film: An in Situ X-ray Study


Ion-conducting polymers (ionomers) have been extensively studied in solution, as membranes and substrate-supported thin films for various electrochemical energy-conversion devices, including fuel cells and electrolyzers. Formation of an ionomer film from a solution, however, is not well understood, despite its importance for fabrication of electrodes in energy devices. Here, the evolution of the perfluorinated sulfonic acid morphology upon casting from a solution is observed using in situ grazing-incidence small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering. Aggregate interactions in dispersion directly impact the hydrophilic-domain network of the cast film and the onset of crystallization occurs simultaneously with the solution-to-film transition but continues to evolve on different time scales. In addition, confinement is shown to induce anisotropic morphology at multiple length scales. These results show promise for elucidating the role of casting parameters, drying protocols, and ionomer-solvent interactions in governing film morphology and open new avenues for establishing structure/processing/property relationships for ionomer films and modifying their transport functionality at catalytic interfaces.

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