Biomembrane templates for nanoscale conduits and networks
Long nanotubes of fluid-lipid bilayers can be used to create templates for photochemical polymerization into solid-phase conduits and networks. Each nanotube is pulled from a micropipette-held feeder vesicle by mechanical retraction of the vesicle after molecular bonding to a rigid substrate. The caliber of the tube is controlled precisely in a range from 20 to 200 nanometers merely by setting the suction pressure in the micropipette. Branched conduits can be formed by coalescing separate nanotubes drawn serially from the feeder vesicle surface. Single nanotubes and nanotube junctions can be linked together between bonding sites on a surface to create a functionalized network. After assembly, the templates can be stabilized by photoinitiated radical cross-linking of macromonomers contained in the aqueous solution confined by the lipid bilayer boundary.