Gated proton transport in aligned mesoporous silica films

Nat Mater. 2008 Apr;7(4):303-7. doi: 10.1038/nmat2127. Epub 2008 Feb 24.


Modulated proton transport plays significant roles in biological processes such as ATP synthesis as well as in technologically important applications including, for example, hydrogen fuel cells. The state-of-the-art proton-exchange membrane is the sulphonated tetrafluoroethylene copolymer Nafion developed by DuPont in the late 1960s, with a high proton conductivity. However, actively switchable proton conduction, a functional mimic of the ion transport within a cell membrane, has yet to be realized. Herein, we report the electrostatic gating of proton transport within aligned mesoporous silica thin film. It is observed that surface-charge-mediated transport is dominant at low proton concentrations. We have further demonstrated that the proton conduction can be actively modulated by two-fourfold with a gate voltage as low as 1 V. Such artificial gatable ion transport media could have potential applications in nanofluidic chemical processors, biomolecular separation and electrochemical energy conversion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Electrochemistry
  • Motion*
  • Porosity
  • Protons*
  • Silicon Dioxide / chemistry*
  • Static Electricity


  • Protons
  • Silicon Dioxide