Bridging the gap: combined optical tweezers with free standing lipid membrane

Victor Marin Lizarraga

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

34 Downloads (Pure)


This thesis presents a reliable technology to assemble free standing lipid membranes using microfabricated devices. A microfluidic cartridge consisting of parallel channels connected with a rectangular aperture was designed and characterized to assemble artificial membranes. This methodology resulted on a system capable of assembling lipid bilayer membranes of different lipid composition. Using decane as organic solvent, ~70% of the aperture was covered by the lipid bilayer, while the remaining are was occupied a pocket of solvent (annulus). An almost complete depletion of the annulus can be achieved by choosing a solvent (chloroform) capable of being absorbed by the flowcell material. In comparison with others methods, this approach is an important contribution to the field as it is allows real-time control over conditions (voltage, molecules in solution, pH) over both leaflets of the membrane. Furthermore, the lipid bilayer plane is perpendicular to the microscope focal plane, allowing observation of morphological changes in the lipid membrane and straightforward combination with optical techniques. This work shows the first successful operation of optical tweezers combined with planar lipid membranes accessible from both sides. Direct manipulation of the membrane is demonstrated with membranes with a reduced annulus. One of the microfluidic devices designed in this thesis can host several membranes simultaneously, which are all accessible with an optical tweezers. This device facilitates optical tweezers studies of by allowing to work with different membranes of same lipid composition in a same device with access to both sides of the membranes. Direct mechanical manipulation and adjustable buffer conditions both simultaneously are highly desired features that this technique offers, enabling the study of biological processes that depend on asymmetric conditions on each membrane sides. In addition, the easy access facilitates the study of the formation of lipid nanotube via the intrusion of objects on a flat membrane. The methodology developed in the context of this thesis can be used for combined electrophysiology and force spectroscopy of lipid membranes. To reach the full potential of this technique, a more complete descriptive model of the membrane is needed. More complex lipid membranes could also be implemented as future work.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Tans, S.J., Supervisor
  • Aubin-Tam, M.E., Advisor
Award date23 Feb 2018
Print ISBNs978-90-8593-337-3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Optical tweezers
  • NOA81
  • lipid membrane
  • lipid nanotube
  • microfluidics

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