The primary challenge in solid-state polymer electrolyte membranes (PEMs) is to enhance properties, such as modulus, toughness, and high temperature stability, without sacrificing ionic conductivity. We report a remarkably facile one-pot synthetic strategy based on polymerization-induced phase separation (PIPS) to generate nanostructured PEMs that exhibit an unprecedented combination of high modulus and ionic conductivity. Simple heating of a poly(ethylene oxide) macromolecular chain transfer agent dissolved in a mixture of ionic liquid, styrene and divinylbenzene, leads to a bicontinuous PEM comprising interpenetrating nanodomains of highly cross-linked polystyrene and poly(ethylene oxide)/ionic liquid. Ionic conductivities higher than the 1 mS/cm benchmark were achieved in samples with an elastic modulus approaching 1 GPa at room temperature. Crucially, these samples are robust solids above 100 C, where the conductivity is significantly higher. This strategy holds tremendous potential to advance lithium-ion battery technology by enabling the use of lithium metal anodes or to serve as membranes in high-temperature fuel cells.
- Polymer electrolyte
- high-temperature fuel cell
- ionic liquid
- lithium-ion battery
- polymerization-induced phase separation