The OpenPicoAmp-100k: an open-source high-performance amplifier for single channel recording in planar lipid bilayers

  • Vadim ShlyonskyEmail author
  • David Gall
Ion channels, receptors and transporters
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Ion channels, receptors and transporters


We propose an upgraded version of our previously designed open-source lipid bilayer amplifier. This improved amplifier is now suitable both for the use in introductory courses in biophysics and neurosciences at the undergraduate level and for scientific research. Similar to its predecessor, the OpenPicoAmp-100k is designed using the common lithographic printed circuit board fabrication process and off-the-shelf electronic components. It consists of the high-speed headstage, followed by voltage-gain amplifier with built-in 6-order Bessel filter. The amplifier has a bandwidth of 100 kHz in the presence of 100-pF input membrane capacitance and is capable of measuring ion channel current with amplitudes from sub-pA and up to ± 4 nA. At the full bandwidth and with a 1 GΩ transimpedance gain, the amplifier shows 12 pArms noise with an open input and 112 pArms noise in the presence of 100-pF input capacitance, while at the 5-kHz bandwidth (typical in single-channel experiments), noise amounts to 0.45 pArms and 2.11 pArms, respectively. Using an optocoupler circuit producing TTL-controlled current impulses and using 50% threshold analysis, we show that at full bandwidth, the amplifier has deadtimes of 3.5 μs and 5 μs at signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) of 9 and 1.7, respectively. Near 100% of true current impulses longer than 5 μs and 6.6 μs are detected at these two respective SNRs, while false event detection rate remains acceptably low. The wide bandwidth of the amplifier was confirmed in bilayer experiments with alamethicin, for which open ion channel current events shorter that 10 μs could be resolved.


Voltage-clamp Temporal resolution Ion channels Electronic design 



We gratefully acknowledge Freddy Dupuis for his technical help in the design of the rail splitter and Prof. Fabrice Homblé for the critical reading of the manuscript.

Funding information

This project has received support from the Fonds d’Encouragement à l’Enseignement of the Université libre de Bruxelles. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

424_2019_2319_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.8 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1792 kb)


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Physiologie et Pharmacologie, Faculté de MédecineUniversité libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratoire d’Enseignement de la Physique, Faculté de MédecineUniversité libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium

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