Proton-conducting membranes are key materials in polymer electrolyte fuel cells. In addition to high proton conductivity and durability, a membrane must also support good electrocatalytic performance of the catalyst layer at the membrane-electrode interface. We herein propose an effective molecular approach to the design of high-performance proton-conducting membranes designed for fuel cell applications. Our new copolymer (SPAF) is a simple combination of perfluoroalkylene and sulfonated phenylene groups. Because this ionomer membrane exhibits a well-controlled finely phase-separated morphology, based on the distinct hydrophilic-hydrophobic differences along with the polymer chain, it functions well in an operating fuel cell with good durability under practical conditions. The advantages of this ionomer, unlike typical perfluorosulfonic acid ionomers (e.g., Nafion), include easy synthesis and versatility in molecular structure, enabling the fine-tuning of membrane properties.
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