European Biophysics Journal

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 117–120

Apparatus for exposing cell membranes to rapid temperature transients


    • School of PhysicsUniversity of Sydney
  • M. M. Bilek
    • School of PhysicsUniversity of Sydney
  • C. G. dos Remedios
    • Institute of Biomedical ResearchUniversity of Sydney
  • D. R. McKenzie
    • School of PhysicsUniversity of Sydney

DOI: 10.1007/s00249-003-0352-5

Cite this article as:
Steel, B., Bilek, M.M., dos Remedios, C.G. et al. Eur Biophys J (2004) 33: 117. doi:10.1007/s00249-003-0352-5


We seek to determine whether cell membranes contain sensors that trigger a downstream response to temperature excursions. To do this, we have developed a novel apparatus for exposing a cell membrane to an extremely rapid temperature excursion in the nanosecond range. Cells are plated on a gold surface that is back-heated by a pulsed laser and cooled by conduction of heat into the glass substrate and the liquid medium. Analysis using the heat diffusion equation shows that the greatest temperature rise is localized within a region tens of nanometres thick, suitable for specifically heating a cell membrane without heating the remainder of a cell. We refer to this device as a nanosecond hotplate.


Heat diffusion equationLaser temperature jumpThermal modelling

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© EBSA 2004