Vibrational Spectroscopic Monitoring of the Gelation Transition in Nafion Ionomer Dispersions

Ying Liang, Jay P. Kitt, Shelley D. Minteer, Joel M. Harris, Carol Korzeniewski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Infrared and Raman spectroscopy techniques were applied to investigate the drying and aggregation behavior of Nafion ionomer particles dispersed in aqueous solution. Gravimetric measurements aided the identification of gel-phase development within a series of time-resolved spectra that tracked transformations of a dispersion sample during solvent evaporation. A spectral band characteristic of ionomer sidechain end group vibration provided a quantitative probe of the dispersion-to-gel change. For sets of attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared (ATR FT-IR) spectra, adherence to Beer's law was attributed to the relatively constant refractive index in the frequency region of hydrated – (Formula presented.) group vibrations as fluorocarbon-rich ionomer regions aggregate in forming the structural framework of membranes and thin films. Although vibrational bands associated with ionomer backbone CF2 stretching vibrations were affected by distortion characteristic of wavelength-dependent refractive index change within a sample, the onset of band distortion signaled gel formation and coincided with ionomer mass % values just below the critical gelation point for Nafion aqueous dispersions. Similar temporal behavior was observed in confocal Raman microscopy experiments that monitored the formation of a thin ionomer film from an individual dispersion droplet. For the ATR FT-IR spectroscopy and confocal Raman microscopy techniques, intensity in the water H–O–H bending vibrational band dropped sharply at the ionomer critical gelation point and displayed a time dependence consistent with changes in water content derived from gravimetric measurements. The reported studies lay groundwork for examining the impact of dispersing solvents and above-ambient temperatures on fluorinated ionomer transformations that influence structural properties of dispersion-cast membranes and thin films.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-384
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Spectroscopy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • ATR-IR
  • Attenuated total reflection infrared
  • Nafion
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • polymers


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