Folding sticky elastica: dynamics and reversibility of folds in Langmuir monolayers
Lipid monolayers at the air/water interface are often subject to large mechanical stresses when compressed laterally. For large enough compression they fold in the out-of-plane direction to relax stress. The repetitive folding and unfolding of lung surfactant monolayers during breathing plays a critical role in conserving monolayer material at the air/water interface lining the lung. Although the mechanisms behind the folding have been explored recently, relatively little information exists regarding the implications of folding dynamics on the long-term stability of the monolayer. We address this question by investigating the dynamical effect of folding rate in a lipid monolayer containing nano-particles, using a combination of analytic theory, simulation and experiment. We find that the presence of adsorbed particles are essential for monolayer rupture during unfolding. These particles act as linkers pinning the folds shut. The rate of folding affects reversibility as well. We construct a reversibility phase diagram spanned by the compression period and the size of the adsorbed particles showing the complex interaction of fold morphology, particle diffusion, and linker unbinding that results in reversible or irreversible folding.