Managing the Redox Potential of PCET in Grotthuss-Type Proton Wires

Emmanuel Odella, Maxim Secor, Edgar A. Reyes Cruz, Walter D. Guerra, María N. Urrutia, Paul A. Liddell, Thomas A. Moore, Gary F. Moore, Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, Ana L. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Expanding proton-coupled electron transfer to multiproton translocations (MPCET) provides a bioinspired mechanism to transport protons away from the redox site. This expansion has been accomplished by separating the initial phenolic proton donor from the pyridine-based terminal proton acceptor by a Grotthuss-type proton wire made up of concatenated benzimidazoles that form a hydrogen-bonded network. However, it was found that the midpoint potential of the phenol oxidation that launched the Grotthuss-type proton translocations is a function of the number of benzimidazoles in the hydrogen-bonded network; it becomes less positive (i.e., a weaker oxidant) as the number of bridging benzimidazoles increases. Herein, we report a strategy to maintain the high redox potential necessary for oxidative processes relevant to artificial photosynthesis, e.g., water oxidation and long-range MPCET processes for managing protons. The integrated structural and functional roles of the benzimidazole-based bridge provide sites for substitution of the benzimidazoles with electron-withdrawing groups (e.g., trifluoromethyl groups). Such substitution increases the midpoint potential of the phenoxyl radical/phenol couple so that proton translocations over ∼11 Å become thermodynamically comparable to that of an unsubstituted system where one proton is transferred over ∼2.5 Å. The extended, substituted system maintains the hydrogen-bonded network; infrared spectroelectrochemistry confirms reversible proton translocations from the phenol to the pyridyl terminal proton acceptor upon oxidation and reduction. Theory supports the change in driving force with added electron-withdrawing groups and provides insight into the role of electron density and electrostatic potential in MPCET processes associated with these Grotthuss-type proton translocations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15672-15679
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 31 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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