The stability of poly(arylene ether sulfone ketone) (SPESK) multiblock copolymer membranes having highly sulfonated hydrophilic blocks was tested in an operating fuel cell. The electrochemical properties and drain water were monitored during the test, followed by post-test analyses of the membrane. During a 2000-h fuel cell operation test at 80 °C and 53% RH (relative humidity) and with a constant current density (0.2 A cm-2), the cell voltage showed minor losses, with slight increases in the resistance. In the drain water, anions such as formate, acetate, and sulfate were observed. Post-test analyses of the chemical structure by NMR and IR spectra revealed that the sulfonated fluorenyl group with ether linkage was the most likely to have degraded during the long-term operation, producing these small molecules. The minor oxidative degradation only slightly affected the proton conductivity, water uptake, and phase-separated morphology.
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