Correlated dynamics in aqueous proton diffusion†
The aqueous proton displays an anomalously large diffusion coefficient that is up to 7 times that of similarly sized cations. There is general consensus that the proton achieves its high diffusion through the Grotthuss mechanism, whereby protons hop from one molecule to the next. A main assumption concerning the extraction of the timescale of the Grotthuss mechanism from experimental results has been that, on average, there is an equal probability for the proton to hop to any of its neighboring water molecules. Herein, we present ab initio simulations that show this assumption is not generally valid. Specifically, we observe that there is an increased probability for the proton to revert back to its previous location. These correlations indicate that the interpretation of the experimental results need to be re-examined and suggest that the timescale of the Grotthuss mechanism is significantly shorter than was previously thought.