Chemical Engineering Seminar

Thursday, October 29, 2020
12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Online Event
Non-equilibrium thermodynamics of biological membranes
Kranthi Mandadapu, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California, Berkeley,

*Please email Sohee ( for Zoom link.

Biological membranes comprised of lipid membranes and proteins make up the boundary of the cell, as well as the boundaries of internal organelles. Lipid membranes and their interactions with proteins and surroundings play an important role in many cellular processes, including endocytosis and neuronal action potentials. Behavior of biological membranes is complex—they are elastic in bending, fluid in plane, and undergo several shape transitions. These shape changes include morphological transitions such as formation of invaginations, buds, and tubules from planar shapes in endocytosis and axonal structures, and topological transitions involving rearranging tubular networks in the endoplasmic reticulum. While these processes are well characterized by experiments in cell biology, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood in a quantitative manner. One reason for this is the complex interplay between elastic bending and thermodynamically irreversible processes such as intra-membrane lipid flow, protein diffusion, and chemical reactions involving protein binding. Modeling these processes pose mathematical challenges as all these processes occur on arbitrarily curving lipid membranes.

In this talk, I will discuss recent advances in both the theoretical and numerical advances in modeling lipid membranes. To this end, I will discuss irreversible/non-equilibrium thermodynamics formalism for arbitrarily curved lipid membranes to determine their dynamical equations of motion. Using this framework, we find relevant constitutive relations and use them to understand how elastic bending interplays with irreversible processes such as intra-membrane flows, diffusion of multiple transmembrane species, in-plane phase transitions and surface chemical reactions on deforming surfaces. Using recently developed numerical methodologies to study arbitrarily curved surfaces. I will discuss aspects of a novel hydrodynamic instability involving front propagation and pattern selection in membrane tubes, and some physical insights gained into the morphological transitions inspired by experiments on neuronal atrophy.

For more information, please contact Sohee Lee by phone at 4197878331 or by email at