Imprisoned lightning: charge transport in trehalose-derived sugar glasses

Louis R. Nemzer, Mahantesh S. Navati, Joel M. Friedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Trehalose is a naturally occurring disaccharide noted for its ability to preserve the biological function of proteins and cell membranes during periods of stress—such as water deprivation or extreme temperature—by stabilizing the conformations of the macromolecules within a glassy matrix. This phenomenon makes use of the propensity for trehalose to interact strongly with protein functional groups and solvent water molecules via hydrogen bonding. Previously, it has been shown that trehalose sugar glasses also support long-range charge transport in oxidation-reduction reactions occurring between spatially separated donors and acceptors. Here, through the use of bulk Arrhenius DC-conductivity measurements, we infer that this anomalously high carrier mobility is due to proton hopping along a hydrogen bonding network formed by sorbed “water wires,” a process known as the Grotthuss mechanism. Additionally, we find that the apparent activation energy of the conductivity depends non-monotonically on the bias voltage. The possibility is raised for novel photovoltaic devices based on the entrapment of photosynthetic proteins within these glasses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2211-2217
Number of pages7
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 31 2015


  • Activation energy
  • Glass relaxation
  • Grotthuss mechanism
  • Proton conductors
  • Trehalose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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