In the last month, I have had two articles published related to the work a BSc student did with me on polyelectrolyte complexes. The first article, published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, investigates the effect of the complex composition on the physical properties of the materials. We observed that complexes of two different polyelectrolytes in the ratio 20:1 showed higher proton conductivities compared to the pure materials, without compromising the structure or stability of the material. These results are of particular interest for fuel cell applications, where tough materials with high conductivities are required.
The second article, published in Soft Matter, examines the material structure upon adjusting the ratio of the two polyelectrolytes used in the complex. One component is a rigid polyelectrolyte that has shown preferential alignment in a specific direction. Complexing this material with a second, more flexible polyelectrolyte was expected to reduce the degree of ordering. However, the results indicated that the alignment was retained for polyelectrolyte ratios up to 10:1. Such behaviour may allow for tuning the structure of polymer films, which may then be applied as fuel cell membranes, filtration membranes, and sensors.