In this work, we analyse theoretically the hypothesis that zwitterionic lipids form dimers in adsorption monolayers on water/ hydrocarbon phase boundary. A dimer can be modelled as a couple of lipid molecules whose headgroup lateral dipole moments have antiparallel orientation. Properties including surface pressure, chemical potentials and activity coefficients are deduced from a general expression for the free energy of the monolayer. The theoretical model is in a good agreement with experimental data for surface pressure and surface potential of lipid monolayers. The results favour the hypothesis about formation of dimers in equilibrium with monomers, with the amount of the species depending on the area per molecule and temperature. The reaction of dimerisation turns out to be exothermic with a heat of about 2.5kT per dimer. The results may be applied to the molecular models of membrane structures and mechanisms.
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Gurkov, T.D., Kralchevsky, P.A. & Nagayama, K. Formation of dimers in lipid monolayers. Colloid Polym Sci 274, 227–238 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00665639