Lipid membrane instability driven by capacitive charging

Jonathan T. Schwalbe*, Petia M. Vlahovska, Michael J. Miksis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

16 Scopus citations


A new mechanism for lipid membrane destabilization and poration by electric fields is proposed. When a dc electric field is applied to an insulating planar membrane separating fluids with different conductivities, a capacitive charging current through the membrane in combination with shearing stresses, created by the electric field acting on its own induced free charge, drives electrohydrodynamic flow that modulates the shape and lipid density fluctuations. The instability is transient and decays as the membrane charges. Accordingly, the dynamics depends on the relative magnitude of the time for charging the membrane capacitor and the electrohydrodynamic flow time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number041701
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 19 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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