Oh and h3o+ diffusion in model aems and pems at low hydration: Insights from ab initio molecular dynamics

Tamar Zelovich, Mark E. Tuckerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fuel cell-based anion-exchange membranes (AEMs) and proton exchange membranes (PEMs) are considered to have great potential as cost-effective, clean energy conversion devices. However, a fundamental atomistic understanding of the hydroxide and hydronium diffusion mechanisms in the AEM and PEM environment is an ongoing challenge. In this work, we aim to identify the fundamental atomistic steps governing hydroxide and hydronium transport phenomena. The mo-tivation of this work lies in the fact that elucidating the key design differences between the hydroxide and hydronium diffusion mechanisms will play an important role in the discovery and determination of key design principles for the synthesis of new membrane materials with high ion conductivity for use in emerging fuel cell technologies. To this end, ab initio molecular dynamics simulations are presented to explore hydroxide and hydronium ion solvation complexes and diffusion mechanisms in the model AEM and PEM systems at low hydration in confined environments. We find that hydroxide diffusion in AEMs is mostly vehicular, while hydronium diffusion in model PEMs is structural. Furthermore, we find that the region between each pair of cations in AEMs creates a bottleneck for hydroxide diffusion, leading to a suppression of diffusivity, while the anions in PEMs become active participants in the hydronium diffusion, suggesting that the presence of the anions in model PEMs could potentially promote hydronium diffusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number355
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Ab initio molecular dynamics
  • Anion-exchange membrane
  • Hydronium diffusion mechanisms
  • Hydroxide diffusion mechanisms
  • Low hydration
  • Nano-confined structures
  • Proton exchange membranes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Filtration and Separation


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