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Direct Observation of Dynamics within Lipid Membranes, a (Roughly) 2D System Influenced by Bulk Water in 3D

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Understanding time scales on which a 2D inclusion diffuses across a 2D sheet surrounded by 3D bulk water is a complex task – it requires knowledge of a length scale set by a ratio of the 2D viscosity of the sheet to the 3D viscosity of the bulk. In our case, the sheet is a lipid membrane and the inclusion is a domain of different lipid composition within that membrane. Understanding the time scales of this system when the membrane is near a miscibility critical point requires knowledge of yet another length scale, the correlation length of fluctuations. By analyzing fluorescence images of lipid membranes through time and by keeping the ratio of the 2D membrane viscosity to the 3D bulk viscosity in mind, we will discover the time scales of domain coarsening and of dynamic critical phenomena in membranes.

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