New generations of materials are being sought as solid-state electrolytes that facilitate fast ion conduction in mechanically robust, yet thin, polymer membranes. Breakthroughs in device performance will usher in new applications and wide-spread adoption of novel power source technology as ion-conducting polymers are engineered to lower the ionic resistance in fuel cells and batteries, facilitate ion transfer and increase reaction rates at the electrolyte-electrode interface, and increase a device's tolerance to environmental excursions of temperature and relative humidity. This article describes the current state-of-the-art in our understanding of water-facilitated ion transport in polymeric membranes and provides some directions for future endeavors in the field, such as anion exchange membranes. Additionally, ties between ion-conducting polymer electrolytes and water treatment membranes are made to illustrate that the underlying mechanisms that control ion transport in fuel cell membranes may also be harnessed to catalyze the development of new membrane materials for water purification.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(10)70082-1