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Nonlinearities in tilt and layer displacements of planar lipid bilayers

De Vita, R. and Stewart, I.W. (2010) Nonlinearities in tilt and layer displacements of planar lipid bilayers. European Physical Journal E - Soft Matter, 32 (3). pp. 319-326. ISSN 1292-8941

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A novel continuum model is proposed to describe the deformations of a planar lipid bilayer suspended across a circular pore. The model is derived within a new theoretical framework for smectic A liquid crystals in which the usual director n , which defines the average orientation of the molecules, is not constrained to be normal to the layers. The free energy is defined by considering the elastic splay of the director, the bending and compression of the lipid bilayer, the cost of tilting the director with respect to the layer normal, the surface tension, and the weak anchoring of the director. Variational methods are used to derive the equilibrium equations and boundary conditions. The resulting boundary value problem is then solved numerically to compute the fully nonlinear displacement of the layers and tilt of the lipid molecules. A parametric study shows that an increase in surface tension produces a decrease in the deformation of the lipid bilayers while an opposite effect is obtained when increasing the anchoring strength.