Understanding Water Uptake and Transport in Nafion Using X-ray Microtomography
To develop new ionomers and optimize existing ones, there is a need to understand their structure/function relationships experimentally. In this letter, synchrotron X-ray microtomography is used to examine water distributions within Nafion, the most commonly used ionomer. Simultaneous high spatial (~1 μm) and temporal (~10 min) resolutions, previously unattained by other techniques, clearly show the nonlinear water profile across the membrane thickness, with a continuous transition from dynamic to steady-state transport coefficients with the requisite water-content dependence. The data also demonstrate the importance of the interfacial condition in controlling the water profile and help to answer some long-standing debates in the literature.