Proton transport and the water environment in nafion fuel cell membranes and AOT reverse micelles

J Am Chem Soc. 2007 Jul 4;129(26):8122-30. doi: 10.1021/ja071939o. Epub 2007 Jun 13.


The properties of confined water and diffusive proton-transfer kinetics in the nanoscopic water channels of Nafion fuel cell membranes at various hydration levels are compared to water in a series of well-characterized AOT reverse micelles with known water nanopool sizes using the photoacid pyranine as a molecular probe. The side chains of Nafion are terminated by sulfonate groups with sodium counterions that are arrayed along the water channels. AOT has sulfonate head groups with sodium counterions that form the interface with the reverse micelle's water nanopool. The extent of excited-state deprotonation is observed by steady-state fluorescence measurements. Proton-transfer kinetics and orientational relaxation are measured by time-dependent fluorescence using time-correlated single photon counting. The time dependence of deprotonation is related to diffusive proton transport away from the photoacid. The fluorescence reflecting the long time scale proton transport has an approximately t-0.8 power law decay in contrast to bulk water, which has a t-3/2 power law. For a given hydration level of Nafion, the excited-state proton transfer and the orientational relaxation are similar to those observed for a related size AOT water nanopool. The effective size of the Nafion water channels at various hydration levels are estimated by the known size of the AOT reverse micelles that display the corresponding proton-transfer kinetics and orientational relaxation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arylsulfonates / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry*
  • Fluorocarbon Polymers / chemistry*
  • Micelles*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Protons
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Arylsulfonates
  • Fluorocarbon Polymers
  • Micelles
  • Protons
  • Water
  • perfluorosulfonic acid
  • pyranine