Nanocellulose is a sustainable material which holds promise for many energy-related applications. Here, nanocrystalline cellulose is used to prepare proton exchange membranes (PEMs). Normally, this nanomaterial is highly dispersible in water, preventing its use as an ionomer in many electrochemical applications. To solve this, we utilized a sulfonic acid crosslinker to simultaneously improve the mechanical robustness, water-stability, and proton conductivity (by introducing-SO3− H+ functional groups). The optimization of the proportion of crosslinker used and the crosslinking reaction time resulted in enhanced proton conductivity up to 15 mS/cm (in the fully hydrated state, at 120◦ C). Considering the many advantages, we believe that nanocellulose can act as a sustainable and low-cost alternative to conventional, ecologically problematic, perfluorosulfonic acid ionomers for applications in, e. fuel cells and electrolyzers.
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