Automated formation of black lipid membranes within a microfluidic device via confocal fluorescence feedback-controlled hydrostatic pressure manipulations

  • Marlene E. Dugger
  • Christopher A. BakerEmail author
Paper in Forefront
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Young Investigators in (Bio-)Analytical Chemistry


Black lipid membranes (BLMs) provide a biomimetic model system for studying cellular membrane processes, and are important tools in drug screening and biosensing applications. BLMs offer advantages over liposomes and solid-supported lipid bilayers in applications where access to both leaflets of the bilayer is critical. Reliable and repeatable formation of BLMs presents a major challenge, especially in systems that require interrogation of the membrane via optical microscopy. BLMs for optical interrogation are often formed by the manual painting method, which is tedious and has a high failure rate because it involves manual manipulation of nanoscale liquid films for membrane self-assembly. Here, we describe a fully automated technique for the formation of BLMs within the imaging plane of an inverted fluorescence microscope. The technique utilizes hydrostatic pressure manipulations within a simple microfluidic device, which are feedback controlled via confocal fluorescence monitoring of the BLM formation process. An algorithm for monitoring and precision control of BLM formation is devised and optimized to yield an 80% success rate for the formation of BLMs, with formation times on the order of 78 min. Membranes formed via the automated procedure are confirmed to be fluid and biomimetic via spontaneous insertion of α-hemolysin pores with characteristic conductance of ca. 1 nS.

Graphical Abstract


Black lipid membrane Suspended bilayer Automation Confocal fluorescence Microfluidic 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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