Decreased aperture surface energy enhances electrical, mechanical, and temporal stability of suspended lipid membranes

Leonard K. Bright, Christopher A. Baker, Mark T. Agasid, Lin Ma, Craig A. Aspinwall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The development of next-generation transmembrane protein-based biosensors relies heavily on the use of black lipid membranes (BLMs); however, electrical, mechanical, and temporal instability of BLMs poses a limiting challenge to biosensor development. In this work, micrometer-sized glass apertures were modified with silanes of different chain length and fluorine composition, including 3-cyanopropyldimethychlorosilane (CPDCS), ethyldimethylchlorosilane (EDCS), n-octyldimethylchlorosilane (ODCS), (tridecafluoro-1, 1, 2, 2-tetrahydrooctyl)dimethylchlorosilane (PFDCS), or (heptadecafluoro-1,1,2,2- tetrahydrodecyl)dimethylchlorosilane (PFDDCS), to explore the effect of substrate surface energy on BLM stability. Low energy silane-modified surfaces promoted enhanced lipid-substrate interactions that facilitate the formation of low-leakage, stable BLMs. The surface energies of silane-modified substrates were 30 ± 3, 16 ± 1, 14 ± 2, 11 ± 1, and 7.1 ± 2 mJ m-2 for CDCS, EDCS, ODCS, PFDCS, and PFDDCS, respectively. Decreased surface energy directly correlated to improved electrical, mechanical, and temporal BLM stability. Amphiphobic perfluorinated surface modifiers yielded superior performance compared to traditional hydrocarbon modifiers in terms of stability and BLM formation, with only marginal effects on BLM membrane permeability. Leakage currents obtained for PFDCS and PFDDCS BLMs were elevated only 10-30%, though PFDDCS modification yielded >5-fold increase in electrical stability as indicated by breakdown voltage (> 2000 mV vs 418 ± 73 mV), and >25-fold increase in mechanical stability as indicated by air-water transfers (> 50 vs 2 ± 0.2) when compared to previously reported CPDCS modification. Importantly, the dramatically improved membrane stabilities were achieved with no deleterious effects on reconstituted ion channel function, as evidenced by α-hemolysin activity. Thus, this approach provides a simple, low cost, and broadly applicable alternative for BLM stabilization and should contribute significantly toward the development of next-generation ion-channel-functionalized biosensors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11918-11926
Number of pages9
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 27 2013


  • aperture
  • black lipid membrane
  • membrane stability
  • silane-modified surface
  • surface energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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