2021 Volume 89 Issue 5 Pages 401-408
Investigation of interfacial proton transport is necessary to elucidate biological systems. As commonly found in biomaterials, the carboxylic acid group was proven to act as a proton-conducting group. This study investigated the influence of carboxylic acid concentration on both interfacial and internal proton transport. Several styrene-based polymers containing the carboxylic acid group were synthesized. The amount of carboxylic acid group in the polymer chain was varied to explore the effects of weak acid concentration on polymer thin films’ electrical properties. The IR p-polarized multiple-angle incidence resolution spectrometry (pMAIR) spectra show the higher ratio of the free carboxylic acid groups rather than cyclic dimers in polymers with a higher concentration of carboxylic acid group, facilitating the more hydrogen bonding networks in films. The water uptake results reveal the similar number of adsorbed water molecules per carboxylic acid group in all thin films. Remarkably, polymer thin films with high carboxylic acid concentration provide internal proton conduction because of the relative increase in the amount of the free carboxylic acid group. In contrast, interfacial proton conduction was found in low carboxylic acid concentration polymers because of the relatively large amount of cyclic dimer carboxylic acid group and poor amount of free carboxylic acid group. This study provides insight into interfacial proton transport behavior according to the weak acid concentration, which might explain proton transport in biological systems.