Persistence of metastability after expansion of a supercompressed fluid monolayer

Ethan C. Smith, Ted G. Laderas, Jonathan M. Crane, Stephen B. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Fluid monolayers of 1-palmitoyl-2-oleoyl-phosphatidylcholine collapse from an air/water interface to form a three-dimensional bulk phase at the equilibrium spreading pressure (π e) of ∼47 mN/m. This phase transition limits access to higher surface pressures under equilibrium conditions or during slow continuous compressions. We have shown previously that these films avoid collapse and become metastable when compressed on a captive bubble to surface pressures above 60 mN/m and that the metastability persists during expansion at least to π e. Here, we first documented the extent of this persistent metastability. Rates of isobaric collapse during expansion of the metastable films were up to 3 orders of magnitude slower than those during the initial compression to high surface pressures. Recovery of the ability to collapse depended on the surface pressure to which the films were expanded and how long they were held there. Films reverted after brief exposure to 20 mN/m and after 1 h at 35 mN/m. At π e, films remained capable of reaching high surface pressures during slow compressions after 65 h, although an increase in compressibility above 55 mN/m suggested somewhat increased rates of collapse. We also determined if the films remained metastable when they acquired sufficient free area to allow reinsertion of collapsed material. Faster isobaric expansion in the presence of more collapsed material and with further deviation below π e supported the existence of reinsertion. The persistence of metastability to π e shows that films with sufficient free area to allow reinsertion remain resistant to collapse. Observations that suggest heterogeneous reinsertion, however, argue that free area may be distributed heterogeneously and leave open the possibility that metastability persists because significant regions retain a restricted free area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4945-4953
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 8 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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