Materials for Proton Transport

What controls the movement of protons between a series of basic sites? The basicity of the site? or how far the sites are? or both? Does the proton jump from one site to other or do the bonds readjust? These questions are fundamental to our understanding of how protons move in many natural and synthetic systems.

In hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen gets oxidized at the anode and the resultant protons need to move to the cathode to facilitate the reduction of oxygen to water. A membrane separates the anode compartment from the cathode compartment. This membrane, currently Nafion, should rapidly transport hydrogen ion (H+) but not hydrogen (H2) molecule. Strategies to improve current membranes are largely Edisonian.

What controls the movement of protons between a series of basic sites? How do we achieve optimal proton transport?  Structure flexibility? or structure organization? or both? Does the proton jump from one site to other or do the bonds readjust? These questions are fundamental to our understanding of how protons move in many natural and synthetic systems.

In hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen gets oxidized at the anode and the resultant protons need to move to the cathode to facilitate the reduction of oxygen to water. A membrane separates the anode compartment from the cathode compartment. This membrane, currently Nafion, should rapidly transport hydrogen ion (H+) but not hydrogen (H2) molecule. Strategies to improve current membranes are largely Edisonian.

Our approach involves creating rigid scaffolds that help organize the proton conducting groups into specific solid structures that has flexibility and structural organization¬† for optimal proton transport.¬† In this project, we collaborate with Prof. Auerbach group and Prof. Mark Tuominen’s group at UMass Amherst.