Document Type: Research Paper
Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
This research investigated stability of two novel aminated polyphenylene polymers as anion exchange layers in bipolar membranes. Bipolar membrane stability was tested under operating conditions of 50 mA/cm2, and under conditions of soaking in room temperature 1 M NaOH. The stability of the custom made bipolar membranes was compared with those for two commercial membranes. For the polyphenylene-based membranes, there was no measurable increase in operating voltage when run continuously at a current density of 50 mA/cm2. For the two commercial membranes, the operating voltages increased by 3.2 to 4.4 mV per day when operated continuously over an 85 day testing period. Commercial membrane degradation in 1 M NaOH was similar to that under real operating conditions, with average rates of voltage increase of 3.2 to 3.5 mV/d. The custom made membrane containing a quaternary ammonium-tethered poly(biphenylalkylene) (PBPA) anion exchange layer did not show any loss in performance in either stability test. Density functional theory (DFT) simulations were used to calculate activation barriers and reaction energies for nucleophilic attack on the polymer backbones and cation functional groups on each of the four anion exchange polymers. Cation loss from all four polymers was thermodynamically favorable, with activation barriers ranging from 64 to 138 kJ/mol. The two commercial polysulfone-based anion exchange membranes were susceptible to cleavage of the ether bonds. However, the polyphenylene-based anion exchange polymers were considerably more stable with respect to backbone cleavage. The DFT calculations showing that the PBPA polymer was the most stable confirmed the results of the stability tests.