Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) composed of polymer or polymer blend is a vital element in PEM fuel cell that allows proton transport and serves as a barrier between fuel and oxygen. Understanding the microscopic phase behavior in polymer blends is very crucial to design alternative cost-effective proton-conducting materials. In this study, the mesoscale morphologies of Nafion/poly(1-vinyl-1,2,4-triazole) (Nafion-PVTri) and Nafion/poly(vinyl phosphonic acid) (Nafion-PVPA) blend membranes were studied by dissipative particle dynamics (DPD) simulation technique. Simulation results indicate that both blend membranes can form a phase-separated microstructure due to the different hydrophobic and hydrophilic character of different polymer chains and different segments in the same polymer chain. There is a strong, attractive interaction between the phosphonic acid and sulfonic acid groups and a very strong repulsive interaction between the fluorinated and phosphonic acid groups in the Nafion-PVPA blend membrane. By increasing the PVPA content in the blend membrane, the PVPA clusters’ size gradually increases and forms a continuous phase. On the other hand, repulsive interaction between fluorinated and triazole units in the Nafion-PVTri blend is not very strong compared to the Nafion-PVPA blend, which results in different phase behavior in Nafion-PVTri blend membrane. This relatively lower repulsive interaction causes Nafion-PVTri blend membrane to have non-continuous phases regardless of the composition.
- Dissipative particle dynamics
- Mesoscale morphology
- Poly(vinylphosphonic acid)