Polymer, Vol.47, No.19, 6782-6796, 2006
A model of charge transport and electromechanical transduction in ionic liquid-swollen Nafion membranes
Ionomeric polymer transducers (sometimes called "ionic polymer-metal composites," or "IPMCs") are a class of electroactive polymers that are able to operate as distributed electromechanical actuators and sensors. Traditionally, these transducers have been fabricated using water-swollen Nation membranes. This work seeks to overcome the hydration dependence of these transducers by replacing water with an ionic liquid. In the current work, two ionic liquids are studied as diluents for ionomeric polymer transducers based on Nation membranes. The two ionic liquids used are 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium trifluoromethanesulfonate (EMI-Tf) and 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide (EMI-Im). These two ionic liquids were chosen for their low viscosity and high conductivity. Furthermore, although many of the physical properties of the two ionic liquids are similar, the EMI-Tf ionic liquid is water miscible whereas the EMI-Im ionic liquid is hydrophobic. These important similarities and differences facilitated investigations of the interactions between the ionic liquids and the Nation polymer. This paper examines the mechanisms of electromechanical transduction in ionic liquid-swollen transducers based on Nafion polymer membranes. Specifically, the morphology and relevant ion associations within these membranes are investigated by the use of small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. These results reveal that the ionic liquid interacts with the membrane in much the same way that water does, and that the counterions of the Nation polymer are the primary charge carriers in the ionic liquid-swollen films. The results of these analyses are compared to the macroscopic transduction behavior in order to develop a molecular/morphological model of the charge transport mechanism responsible for electromechanical coupling in these membranes. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.