Selective ion transport across a lipid bilayer in a protic ionic liquid†
Ionic liquids (ILs) have exhibited enormous potential as electrolytes, designer solvents and reaction media, as well as being surprisingly effective platforms for amphiphile self-assembly and for preserving structure of complex biomolecules. This has led to their exploration as media for long-term biopreservation and in biosensors, for which their viability depends on their ability to sustain both structure and function within complex, multicomponent nanoscale compartments and assemblies. Here we show that a tethered lipid bilayer can be assembled directly in a purely IL environment that retains its structure upon exchange between IL and aqueous buffer, and that the membrane transporter valinomycin can be incorporated so as to retain its functionality and cation selectivity. This paves the way for the development of long-lived, non-aqueous microreactors and sensor assemblies, and demonstrates the potential for complex proteins to retain functionality in non-aqueous, ionic liquid solvents.