A successful approach towards enhancement in ion cluster size of sulfonated poly (arylene ether sulfone) (SPAES)-based membranes has been successfully carried out by encapsulating basic pendent branches as side groups. Modified SPAES was synthesized by condensation polymerization followed by bromination with N-bromosuccinamide (NBS) and sulfonation by ring opening reaction. Various molar ratios of branched polyethyleneimine (PEI) were added to the SPAES and the developed polymer was designated as SPAES-x-PEI-y, where x
denoted the number of sulfonating acid group per polymer chain and y represents the amount of PEI concentration. Polymer synthesis was characterized by 1
H-NMR (Nuclear magnetic resonance) and FT-IR (Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy) analysis. A cumulative trend involving enhanced proton conductivity of the membranes with an increase in the molar ratio of PEI has been observed, clearly demonstrating the formation of ionic clusters. SPAES-140-PEI-3 membranes show improved proton conductivity of 0.12 Scm−1
at 80 °C. Excellent chemical stability was demonstrated by the polymer with Fenton’s test at 80 °C for 24 h without significant loss in proton conductivity, owing to the suitability of the synthesized hybrid membrane for electrochemical application. Moreover, a single cell degradation test was conducted at 80 °C showing a power density at a 140 mWcm−2
value, proving the stable nature of synthesized membranes for proton exchange membrane fuel cell application.
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