Ultrafast motions and fleeting geometries in proton hydration

Basic processes in chemistry and biology involve protons in a water environment. Water structures accommodating protons and their motions have so far remained elusive. Applying ultrafast vibrational spectroscopy, researchers have mapped fluctuating proton transfer motions and provided direct evidence that protons in liquid water are predominantly shared by two water molecules. Femtosecond proton elongations within a hydration site are 10 to 50 times faster than proton hopping to a new site, the elementary proton transfer step in chemistry.