One-Atom-Thick Crystals as a Novel Class of Proton Conducting Materials

UoM administered thesis: Phd


Graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms, is impermeable to all atoms and molecules; the same can be expected for other 2D crystals like hexagonal boron nitride (hBN). In this work we show that monolayers of graphene and hBN are highly permeable to thermal protons. As a reference, we show that monolayers of molybdenum disulphide as well as bilayers of graphene and tetralayers of hBN are not. Moreover, we show that water plays a crucial role in the transport mechanism. Because of the zero point energy of vibration in the oxygen-hydrogen bonds in water, protons face energy barriers smaller than previously predicted by theory. The effect, revealed by substituting hydrogen for deuterium, also shows that protons and deuterons transport at different rates across the membranes; establishing them as membranes with subatomic selectivity. Beyond the purely scientific implications, our results establish monolayers of graphene and hBN as a promising new class of proton conducting materials with potential applications in fuel cells, hydrogen purification and isotope enrichment technologies.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Andre Geim (Supervisor)
  • Ernest Hill (Supervisor)
Award date31 Dec 2015