Controlling Hydronium Diffusivity in Model Proton Exchange Membranes

Tamar Zelovich, Mark E. Tuckerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fuel-cell-based proton exchange membranes (PEMs) show great potential as cost-effective and clean energy conversion devices. In our recent work, we found that for the low-hydrated model PEMs with a inhomogeneous water distribution and a sulfonate anionic functional end group (SO3-), the H3O+ reacts with SO3- according to SO3- + H3O + ↔ SO3H + H2O, indicating that the anions in PEMs become active participants in the hydronium diffusion. In this work, we use fully atomistic ab initio molecular dynamics simulations to elucidate the optimal conditions that would promote the participation of SO3- in the hydronium diffusion mechanism by increasing the H3O+/SO3- reactivity, thus increasing the hydronium diffusivity along the cell. The results presented in this work allow us to suggest a set of design rules for creating novel, highly conductive PEMs operating at high temperatures under a nonuniform water distribution using a linker/anion with a relatively high pKa such as (CH2)2SO3. We expect that the discovery of these key design principles will play an important role in the synthesis of high-performing materials for emerging PEM-based fuel cell technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2245-2253
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Mar 10 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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