Student Research Projects

Morphological studies on polymer electrolyte membranes (PEMs) used in fuel cells the effects of environmental conditions on structural changes as determined by FTIR spectroscopy, Part II

Student Keane Dye ‘16 (Biology and Chemistry)
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Chemistry
Course Chemistry 489: Research in the Natural Sciences


Our goal is to demonstrate that in-bulk structural changes of a PEM Nafion can be determined using Fourier Transmission Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) in transmission mode. Additionally, we created a reliable method of pretreating and embedding samples of Nafion for analysis. Samples were created using polymers immersed in both concentrated HCl and H2O samples. Due to the thickness of commercially available perfluorinated films, thin samples needed to be prepared for in-bulk analysis. Microsampling techniques were developed and FTIR spectra displayed features where the extent of hydration by the sulfonate groups in the polymer can be measured. This provides insight into how deep in a membrane water molecules diffuse. Our research has shown that there is an observable difference between the extent of hydration between samples immersed in either HCl or H2O.


Recipient of a research grant from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC), summer 2014.

Recipient of a Virginia Wesleyan Undergraduate Research Grant for Research, 2014-15.