Anion exchange membranes: The effect of reinforcement in water and electrolyte
Alkaline anion-conducting polymer-based CO2 electrolysis and water electrolysis are among two emerging renewable energy conversion technologies. Their system design and integration offer promise of lower capital cost due to utilization of low-cost catalysts, in contrast to platinum group metal catalysts required for cation-conducting polymer-based devices. However, a critical component, the polymer electrolyte membrane, remains an obstacle hampering system performance and durability. In this study, commercially-available Sustainion® membranes with and without PTFE-reinforcement were investigated to understand previously unreported origins of improved device performance when compared to alternative membrane chemistries. We report critical membrane properties, such as morphology, thermal stability, as well as temperature-, hydration-, and counter-ion dependent ion conductivity. Moveover, the changes in uptake and conductivity of membranes in supporting electrolytes of K2CO3 and KOH investigated as a function of their concentration. Presence of reinforcement and supporting electrolyte type alter the membrane's transport functionality, which could help guide device design for improved performance. The obtained results not only show how Sustainion® properties change with operating environment for CO2 and water electrolysis applications, but also provide understanding for internal and external factors controlling anion-exhcnage membrane functionality in electrochemical devices.