Title page for ETD etd-04082010-164502

Type of Document Dissertation
Author VanHouten, Rachael A
URN etd-04082010-164502
Title Synthesis and Characterization of Hydrophobic-Hydrophilic Segmented and Multiblock Copolymers for Proton Exchange Membrane and Reverse Osmosis Applications
Degree PhD
Department Macromolecular Science and Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
McGrath, James E. Committee Chair
Case, Scott W. Committee Member
Davis, Richey M. Committee Member
Dillard, John G. Committee Member
Riffle, Judy S. Committee Member
  • proton exchange membrane
  • disulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone)s
  • reverse osmosis membrane
  • segmented copolymer
  • multiblock copolymer
Date of Defense 2009-12-01
Availability restricted
This thesis research focused on the synthesis and characterization of disulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) hydrophilic-hydrophobic segmented and multiblock copolymers for application as proton exchange membranes (PEMs) in fuel cells or as reverse osmosis (RO) membranes for water desalination. The first objective was to demonstrate that synthesizing blocky copolymers using a one oligomer, two monomer segmented copolymerization afforded copolymers with similar properties to those which used a previous approach of coupling two preformed oligomers. A 4,4’-biphenol based hydrophilic block of disulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) oligomer of controlled number average molecular weight (Mn) with phenoxide reactive end groups was first synthesized and isolated. It was then reacted with a calculated amount of hydrophobic monomers, forming that block in-situ. Copolymer and membrane properties, such as intrinsic viscosity, tensile strength, water uptake, and proton conductivity, were consistent with those of multiblock copolymers synthesized via the oligomer-oligomer approach.

The segmented polymerization technique was then used to synthesize a variety of other copolymers for PEM applications. The well known bisphenol phenolphthalein was explored as a comonomer for either the hydrophilic and hydrophobic blocks of the copolymer. Membrane properties were explored as a function of block length for both series of copolymers. Both series showed that as block length increases, proton conductivity increases across the entire range of relative humidity (30-100%), as does, water uptake. This was consistent with earlier research which showed that the water self-diffusion coefficient scaled with block length. Copolymers produced with phenolphthalein had higher tensile strength, but lower ultimate elongation than the 4,4’-biphenol based copolymers.

Multiblock copolymers were also synthesized and characterized to assess their feasibility as RO membranes. A new series of multiblock copolymers was synthesized by coupling hydrophilic disulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) (BisAS100) oligomer with hydrophobic unsulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) (BisAS0) oligomer. Both oligomers were derived using 4,4´-isopropylidenediphenol (Bis-A) as the bisphenol. Phenoxide-terminated BisAS100 was end-capped with decafluorobiphenyl and reacted at relatively low temperatures (~ 100 oC) with phenoxide-terminated BisAS0. Basic properties were characterized as a function of block length. The initial membrane characterization suggested these copolymers may be suitable candidates for reverse osmosis applications, and water and salt permeability testing should be conducted to determine desalination properties. The latter measurements are being conducted at the University of Texas, Austin and will be reported separately.

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