Protic organic ionic plastic crystals (POIPCs) are a type of novel solid-state proton conductors. In this work, guanidinium nonaflate ([Gdm-H][NfO]) is reported to be a model POIPC. Its structure-property relationship has been investigated comprehensively. Infrared analysis of [Gdm-H][NfO] and its deuterated analogue [Gdm-D][NfO] confirms the complete formation of the protic salts. The cations in as-prepared [Gdm-D][NfO] are estimated to consist of [C(ND2)2(NHD)]+ and [C(ND2)3]+ with a molar ratio of around 1:1. The deuteration also proves that each guanidinium cation has six displaceable protons. Thermogravimetric analysis demonstrates that [Gdm-H][NfO] exhibits superior thermal stability in both nitrogen and air atmospheres. Isothermogravimetric analysis reveals its negligible vapor pressure with an estimated high enthalpy of vaporization (120.9 kJ mol-1). Differential scanning calorimetry measurements of [Gdm-H][NfO] show four evident endothermic peaks prior to its melting transition at 186.2 °C with a low entropy of melting (17.70 J K-1 mol-1). Shortly before the onset temperature of melting transition (186.2 °C), partial melting (partial liquefaction) was observed via polarized optical microscopy in the temperature region of 176-186 °C while the reason for partial melting of ionic plastic crystals is not clear yet. Variable-temperature powder X-ray diffraction tests confirm the related solid-solid phase transitions and demonstrate that [Gdm-H][NfO] exhibits short-range disorder and long-range positional order in the plastic crystalline phases. Dielectric spectroscopy measurements show that its ionic conductivity reaches 2.1 × 10-3 S cm-1 at 185 °C. The proton conduction in the plastic crystalline phases of [Gdm-H][NfO] is assumed to happen via the vehicle mechanism. In the molten state, the proton conduction follows a combination of the vehicle mechanism and the Grotthuss mechanism (structural diffusion). In summary, due to their exceptional physicochemical properties, POIPCs like [Gdm-H][NfO] are promising electrolyte materials for high temperature (100-200 °C) proton exchange membrane fuel cells. In addition, POIPC-based solid-state proton conductors are also expected to find applications in sensors and other electrochemical devices.
Chen, X., Tang, H., Putzeys, T., Sniekers, J., Wübbenhorst, M., Binnemans, K., Fransaer, J., De Vos, D. E., Li, Q., & Luo, J. (2016). Guanidinium nonaflate as a solid-state proton conductor. Journal of Materials Chemistry A, 4(31), 12241-12252. https://doi.org/10.1039/c6ta05472b