Behaviour of Interacting Protons: The Average-Mass Approach to its Study and its Possible Biological Relevance

  • G. Aiello
  • M. S. Micciancio-Giammarinaro
  • M. B. Palma-Vittorelli
  • M. U. Palma


Among all other kinds of ions occurring in the solid, liquid and living states of matter, positive hydrogen ions (which we shall henceforth call protons for brevity) are singled out by their exceptionally small mass. This is the reason for their specific property of tunnelling through potential barriers, which in turn is responsible for such properties as hydrogen bonding. This is also responsible for the unique properties exhibited in many cases by (sub)systems of interacting protons. Examples are the intriguing properties of liquid water and ice [1]; the para-ferroelectric transition in hydrogen-bonded ferroelectrics [2]; the cooperative transitions in ammonium salts [3] and in hexamine halides [4]; a variety of “transitions” observed in organic compounds [5] and many others. In all these cases the interaction among protons prevails over that existing between protons and heavier atoms. This makes the protons behave as a (sub)system having its own properties and characteristics, determining the macroscopic properties of the system as a whole. In a way, this (sub)system is similar to that of electrons in a conductor, even if the energy-band approach is not applicable.


Isotopic Effect Ammonium Salt Water Proton Hysteretic Loop Interact Proton 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1973

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Aiello
    • 1
  • M. S. Micciancio-Giammarinaro
    • 1
  • M. B. Palma-Vittorelli
    • 1
  • M. U. Palma
    • 1
  1. 1.Istituto di Fisica dell’ Università di Palermo and Gruppi Nazionali Struttura della MateriaConsiglio Nazionale delle RicercheItaly

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