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    New Delhi: Researchers design organic molecules for easier proton transport

    New Delhi: (India Science Wire): Proton transport plays a key role in energy conversion and storage processes in nature and in industry. Photosynthesis and hydrogen fuel cells are two such examples, respectively. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal have designed organic molecules to create conductive channels for easy transport of protons. Designing molecules that act as stable and efficient proton conductors is essential for achieving the high efficiency in industrial devices. Although organic compounds are lightweight and easily moulded in desired shapes, their extremely low inherent conductivity makes them unsuitable for such applications. Thus, new design strategies for creating more stable, lightweight, and efficient proton conductors from organic molecules are vital for the next generation of energy storage devices. 

    “Our study is aimed at providing new design solutions for creating conductive organic materials by taking a nature-inspired approach. We mimicked the strategy employed by ion-channels and antibiotic molecules in transporting polar molecules such as water and ions across the non-polar cell membranes and designed organic molecules that can be stacked on each other in different ways to create conductive channels for easy transport of protons through them,” inform Dr Aasheesh Srivastava, the lead researcher.

    By mimicking nature, study team has shown how easy-to-prepare helical organic scaffolds can be used for efficient solid-state proton conductivity without having any charged residues attached to them. Such molecules are expected to be highly stable in the high humidity and temperature conditions needed for the operation of proton conductors. 

    “Helical molecules stack over one another significantly influence their ability to conduct the proton. This stacking is predictable and can be controlled by the solvent for preparing the solid. These findings highlight the importance of molecular design and the molecular assembly in achieving efficient material outcome,” researchers explain.

    This collaborative interdisciplinary research involved students, experts, and scholars from the Departments of Chemistry and the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “It is also clear from our study that the best outcome is achieved by properly designing molecules and also by carefully organizing them in the solid state so that the proton can traverse through them with low hindrance/resistance,” observes Dr Srivastava. 

    Besides Dr Aasheesh Srivastav, the team comprises Himanshu Aggarwal, Pradip A. Gaikwad, Anjali Dahat, Swapnendu Narayan Ghosh, Palak Mehra, Amit Paul, and Santanu Talukder. The study has been published in the Chemistry Europe, a journal of the European Chemical Societies. 

    (India Science Wire)  

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