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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Morphology of Hydrated As-Cast Nafion Revealed through Cryo Electron Tomography.

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Nafion is an ion-containing random copolymer used as a solid electrolyte in many electrochemical applications thanks to its remarkable ionic conductivity and mechanical stability. Understanding the mechanism of ion transport in Nafion, which depends strongly on hydration, therefore requires a complete picture of its morphology in dry and hydrated form. Here we report on a nanoscale study of dry versus hydrated as-cast 100 nm Nafion membranes using analytical transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and cryogenic TEM tomography, respectively. For the dry membrane, spherical clusters ∼3.5 nm in diameter corresponding to the hydrophilic sulfonic-acid-containing phase are identified. In contrast, cryo TEM tomography of the hydrated membrane reveals an interconnected channel-type network, with a domain spacing of ∼5 nm, and presents the first nanoscale 3D views of the internal structure of hydrated Nafion obtained by a direct-imaging approach.

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