Secure, competitive, and sustainable energy production is a major challenge facing human societies. Biomimetic solutions such as the development of new biofuel cells are hampered by our thus far incomplete understanding of proton transfer reactions. The same holds for health threats to humanity: Curing diseases like cancer, obesity, chronic gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, requires to pharmacologically interfere - in their molecular details - with yet unresolved proton transfer reactions.
Here we aim at clarifying the molecular reaction mechanism in the confines of interfacial water layers and proteinaceous cavities with emphasis on arrangement and mobility of proton relay moieties. Achieving this requires an interdisciplinary, multi-level approach comprising cutting edge technologies like second harmonic imaging, single molecule and time resolved fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy, advanced calculations of proton transfer, bioengineering of membrane channel and transporter containing systems, synthetic design of biomimetic proton channels, solving protein structures and rational drug design.
PROTON will train 15 PhD students, who will acquire a solid state-of-the-art multidisciplinary scientific training in all kinds of proton migration/reaction systems, covering from basic science to industrial applications, thus preparing them to generate new scientific knowledge of the highest impact. In addition, practical training on transferable skills will increase their employability and qualify them for responsible positions in private and public sectors. Cross-disciplinary strategies and close collaboration with industry will enable them to resolve the molecular details of proton driven processes in all kinds of settings - enabling the improvement of biomimetic applications ? up to fuel cells - and to identify lead substances which may serve to pharmacologically interfere with proton transport through membrane channels and transporters.