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Journal Article

Mechanism of Efficient Proton Conduction in Diphosphoric Acid Elucidated via First-Principles Simulation and NMR


Bester,  G.
Max Planck Society;


Kreuer,  K.-D.
Department Physical Chemistry of Solids (Joachim Maier), Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Max Planck Society;

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Krueger, R.-A., Vilčiauskas, L., Melchior, J.-P., Bester, G., & Kreuer, K.-D. (2015). Mechanism of Efficient Proton Conduction in Diphosphoric Acid Elucidated via First-Principles Simulation and NMR. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 119(52), 15866-15875.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000E-CB18-3
Diphosphoric acid (H4P2O7) is the first condensation product of phosphoric acid (H3PO4), the compound with the highest intrinsic proton conductivity in the liquid state. It exists at higher temperature (T > 200 degrees C) and lower relative humidity (RH approximate to 0.01%) and shows significant ionic conductivity under these conditions. In this work, ab initio molecular dynamics simulations of a pure H4P2O7 model system and NMR spectroscopy on nominal H4P2O7 (which contains significant amounts of ortho- and triphosphoric acid in thermodynamic equilibrium) were performed to reveal the nature and underlying mechanisms of the ionic conductivity. The central oxygen of the molecule is found to be excluded from any hydrogen bonding, which has two interesting consequences: (i) compared to H3PO4, the acidity of H4P2O7 is severely increased, and (ii) the condensation reaction only leads to a minor decrease in hydrogen bond network frustration, which is thought to be one of the features enabling high proton conductivity. A topological analysis of diphosphoric acid's hydrogen bond network shows remarkable similarities to that of phosphonic acid (H3PO3). The hydrogen bonding facilitates protonic polarization fluctuations (Zundel polarization) extending over several molecules (Grotthuss chains), the other important ingredient for efficient structural diffusion of protons. At T = 160 degrees C, this is estimated to make a conductivity contribution of about 0.1 S/cm, which accounts for half of the total ionic conductivity (sigma approximate to 0.2 S/cm). The other half is suggested to result from diffusion of charged phosphate species (vehicle mechanism) that are present in high concentration, resembling conduction in ionic liquids.