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Prof. Elisa Martinelli

Title of the PhD project:
Preparation and characterization of polymeric anion exchange ionomers and membranes for green hydrogen production

Abstract of the PhD project:
Hydrogen is a clean energy transition pathway conveying renewable sources including solar, wind, and hydro, to the increasing energy demand around the globe. The conversion of renewable energies into hydrogen is achievable by water electrolysis, and, besides many other research approaches, anion exchange membrane (AEM) technology has attracted increased interest in recent years. This technology is based on two main polymeric components, namely the membrane and the ionomer, that determine the overall electrochemical performance of the electrolytic cell.
The project focuses on the preparation of anion exchange membranes and ionomers by post-modification of relatively cheap commercial materials, starting from affordable and industrially scalable approaches, such as free radical polymerization (FRP) and nitroxide-mediated polymerization (NMP) techniques, to move forward to more sophisticated synthetic routes. Design and synthesis of suitable functional monomers and preparation of modified polymers as well as the development of a straightforward and effective strategy to create cationic functionalities, represent key tasks for the preparation of tailored high-performing materials. Products will be extensively characterized to evaluate thermal, mechanical and electrochemical properties in order to establish polymer chemistry-property-performance correlations exploitable for the optimization of the materials, the ultimate aim being the development of membranes and ionomers that satisfy the application requirements, including excellent ionic conductivity and durability in aggressive chemical environment, for their implementation in a large-scale, cost-effective and sustainable energy-production process.


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