Researchers publishing in the journal Nature have described the transport of protons through monolayers of graphene, a material which is made up of carbon which is one atom thick.
Prof Milo Shaffer, Professor of Materials Chemistry, and co-director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology, Imperial College London, said:
“The report that protons can penetrate atomically thin layers is both exciting and surprising, especially given that the measured activation energies are significantly lower than predicted by theory. Often the exceptional properties of near-perfect graphene and related systems, available in very limited quantities, can be lost when moving to more scalable production methods. The fact that similar results were already obtained in this study using much more practical CVD-grown layers, not just mechanically exfoliated samples, is very encouraging for further studies and eventual applications.”
Dr Gareth Hinds, Electrochemist specialising in fuel cells, National Physical Laboratory, said:
“While there are challenges to overcome in the manufacture of these 2D layers on a practical scale and questions to be resolved over the mechanism of proton transport, this exciting discovery could have a significant impact on a range of technologies in the energy sector. For example, if such a layer could be successfully incorporated between the electrodes of a hydrogen fuel cell, the issue of gas crossover would be completely eliminated, resulting in step changes in power output and stability. This would have major implications for an environmentally-friendly technology on the brink of commercialisation.”
‘Proton transport through one-atom-thick crystals’ by S. Hu et al. published in Nature on Wednesday 26 November 2014