Characterization of lipid bilayer membranes through droplet mechanics

Project Title: Characterization of lipid bilayer membranes through droplet mechanics.

Project Duration: May 21 – July 28 2018 (10 weeks), 40 hours per week.

Project Mentors:

  • Primary Faculty Mentor:
    • Eric Freeman
    • College of Engineering
    • 706-583-0611
  • Secondary Faculty Mentor:
    • Xianqiao Wang
    • College of Engineering
    • 706-542-6251
  • Graduate Student/PostDoc mentors:


Project Description: The proposed research focuses on coupling droplet and membrane mechanics through the droplet interface bilayer (DIB) technique. Aqueous droplets are formed in an oil bath with lipids dissolved in either phase, forming lipid monolayers across the surface of the droplets. Manipulating the lipid-coated droplets into contact causes the spontaneous formation of lipid bilayer membranes, serving as an approximation of the plasma membrane. The size of the adhered interface is determined by the balance of surface energies, or the relative cost of formation. Studying the cost of formation as a function of membrane components provides insights into how the components are arranged, which will be used to examine the distribution of cholesterol in a lipid membrane. Predictions will be compared to results from atomistic simulations.


REU Student Role and Responsibility: The REU student will be responsible for preparing solutions, measuring the surface tension of the lipid monolayer through pendant drop tensiometry, forming adhered droplet pairs through the DIB technique, and inferring the energy per area of the lipid membrane through measurements of the external contact angle through microscopy and image analysis. The REU student will also be responsible for documenting their work in a clear and consistent fashion, and remaining accessible for discussions when developing manuscripts including their results.


Required skills or courses for the REU student: The ideal student should be familiar with MATLAB, basic laboratory skills, and able and willing to learn new skills and techniques.


Expected Outcome for REU student: If the experiments are successful, the REU student will be invited to assist in the development of a manuscript as a co-author detailing their work and combining it with ongoing work on mechanical characterization of lipid membranes via electrocompression.