Elucidating the Proton Transport Pathways in Liquid Imidazole with First-Principles Molecular Dynamics

Zhuoran Long, Austin O. Atsango, Joseph A. Napoli, Thomas E. Markland, Mark E. Tuckerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Imidazole is a promising anhydrous proton conductor with a high conductivity comparable to that of water at a similar temperature relative to its melting point. Previous theoretical studies of the mechanism of proton transport in imidazole have relied either on empirical models or on ab initio trajectories that have been too short to draw significant conclusions. Here, we present the results of multiple time-step ab initio molecular dynamics simulations of an excess proton in liquid imidazole reaching 1 ns in total simulation time. We find that the proton transport is dominated by structural diffusion, with the diffusion constant of the proton defect being â8 times higher than that of self-diffusion of the imidazole molecules. By using correlation function analysis, we decompose the mechanism for proton transport into a series of first-order processes and show that the proton transport mechanism occurs over three distinct time and length scales. Although the mechanism at intermediate times is dominated by hopping along pseudo-one-dimensional chains, at longer times the overall rate of diffusion is limited by the re-formation of these chains. These results provide a more complete picture of the traditional idealized Grotthuss structural diffusion mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6156-6163
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Letters
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 6 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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