Membrane-based Materials

Senior Investigators (Brandeis)
Avi Rodal, (group co-leader), Biology
Zvonimir Dogic, (group co-leader), Physics
Bulbul Chakraborty, Physics
Mike Hagan, Physics
Robert Meyer, Physics
Daniela Nicastro, Biology
Bing Xu, Chemistry

Senior Investigators (elsewhere)
Hendrick Dietz, TU Munich
Anthony Dinsmore, UMass Amherst
Daniel Harries, Institute of Chemistry, HUJ
Stephen Harrison, Harvard University
Rudolf Oldenbourg, Marine Biological Laboratory and Brown University
Robert Pelcovits, Brown University
Thomas Powers, Brown University

Research Vision and Plan

IRG vision  
By studying nanometer-sized lipid bilayers and micron-sized colloidal monolayers, we will learn to engineer heterogeneous, shape-changing membranes as the basis for new functional materials.

Biological membranes are exceptional materials that combine seemingly divergent properties. They are mechanically tough and difficult to rupture, yet they are highly fluid and readily change shape. They are permeable to certain molecules while impermeable to others. These unique properties make membranes an indispensable structural component of all living organisms and it has been proposed that life originated from simple protocell vesicles. These attributes also make membranes attractive from a materials perspective, leading to their use in diverse applications including drug delivery and biosensors. A materials scientist and a biological cell face similar challenges when using membranes to build materials or organelles. How can laterally heterogeneous compartmentalized membranes be designed? How can 3D membrane shape be dynamically manipulated? How can transport across membranes be regulated? We will elucidate design principles that govern these structures and processes, to enable engineering membrane-based materials and to illuminate how biological cells use membrane-based structures  to achieve specific functions.

Research Highlights
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 When two membranes composed of rods with different lengths and opposite chiralities coalesce, the short rods form stable rafts in a background of long rods.

mem-ribbon  Tuning the surface tension of the membranes causes a transition from the flat membrane phase to a twisted-ribbon phase.