Aqueous Proton Transportation in Graphene-Based Nanochannels

HM Duan and ZX Ying and LL Tian and YH Cheng and L Shi, LANGMUIR (2022).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.2c02773

Graphene oxide (GO) has been unveiled to exhibit high proton conductivity in a humidified or aqueous environment, making it a promising candidate to construct proton conduction nanochannels. In this work, we systematically investigate how the confinement effect and surface chemistry influence the proton transportation behavior in graphene-based nanochannels via extensive ReaxFF MD simulations. Graphene (GE), graphane (GA), and hydroxygraphane (HG) sheets were employed to mimic the graphitic and functionalized region of GO and construct nanochannels with different interlayer distances. We find that confined water molecules are stratified and their orientation is influenced by the surface chemistry, thus impacting the distribution of protons. Surface chemistry makes the compression of the hydrogen-bond network induced by the confinement effect more variable. The hydrogen- bond network between GE slabs is crushed by extreme confinement and ultrafast proton transportation behavior mainly achieved via vehicle mechanism. Meanwhile, the hydrogen-bond network and solvation structure can be kept more complete with the existence of functional groups. The hydrogen bonds formed with surface functional groups impede the transportation of water molecules but allow more Grotthuss hopping of protons to different extents. Our work clarified the proton transportation mechanism in graphene-based nanochannels with different interlayer distances and surface chemistry and can guide the future design of proton conduction devices such as proton exchange membranes.

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