Research Topic

Membrane Structure and Dynamics Studied with Neutron Scattering

About this Research Topic

Self-assembled phospholipid membranes are ubiquitous in biology and chemistry. In modern chemistry, self-assembled surfactant or lipid membranes in dispersed lamellar or non-lamellar phases (cubic and hexagonal) or bicontinuous microemulsions are frequently used in health care or consumer products to encapsulate and deliver active substances. Thanks to their generally well defined structure and properties, they can also be used to formulate nano-scale reactors for sustainable synthesis.

Neutron scattering provides a unique view on self-assembled membranes, for example with Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) in solution or with Neutron Reflectivity (NR) using contrast variation through deuterium labelling. Thermal membrane fluctuations are measured with Neutron Spin Echo (NSE) spectroscopy, allowing us to study how changes in environment, for example adding diblock copolymers or changing solvent properties, can influence membrane elasticity. Recent advances in instrumentation have also provided access to membrane dynamics at the solid-liquid interface with grazing incidence NSE (GINSES).

The possibility of contrast variation by deuteration in neutron scattering provides an insight into the properties of individual components in the liquid state on nanometer length scales that is not accessible through other techniques.

This Research topic aims to bring together different aspects of membrane structure and membrane dynamics, where neutron scattering techniques are applied to obtain a detailed understanding of structural, mechanical, and thermodynamic properties of membranes. The chemical composition of different types of self-assembled membranes and the interaction with embedded or adsorbed molecules on the mechanical properties of the membranes shall be investigated. In phospholipid membranes, for example, a particularly hot topic is the study of the influence of different membrane components such as cholesterol, or pharmaceuticals such as ibuprofen. The aim of this article collection is to illustrate the plethora of membrane aspects that can be studied with state-of-the-art neutron scattering techniques.

The scope of this Research Topic spans recent topics in membrane structure (from elasticity and relation to function, to surfactant membranes in microemulsions) and dynamics studied with modern neutron scattering instruments. We welcome Original Research and Mini-Review submissions in the following areas:

 • Studies in structural information acquired with NR and SANS, but also on very local scales with other neutron diffraction techniques, potentially complemented with molecular dynamics simulations
 • Large-scale dynamics of the entire membrane with NSE spectroscopy, as well as more local motions of single constituents of the membrane, as can be studied with backscattering spectroscopy and time-of-flight techniques in neutron scattering
 • The influence of proteins and drug molecules on phospholipid membranes
 • Thermodynamics and phase behavior of microemulsions


Keywords: phospholipid membranes, microemulsions, thermal fluctuations, neutron scattering, membrane structure


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Self-assembled phospholipid membranes are ubiquitous in biology and chemistry. In modern chemistry, self-assembled surfactant or lipid membranes in dispersed lamellar or non-lamellar phases (cubic and hexagonal) or bicontinuous microemulsions are frequently used in health care or consumer products to encapsulate and deliver active substances. Thanks to their generally well defined structure and properties, they can also be used to formulate nano-scale reactors for sustainable synthesis.

Neutron scattering provides a unique view on self-assembled membranes, for example with Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) in solution or with Neutron Reflectivity (NR) using contrast variation through deuterium labelling. Thermal membrane fluctuations are measured with Neutron Spin Echo (NSE) spectroscopy, allowing us to study how changes in environment, for example adding diblock copolymers or changing solvent properties, can influence membrane elasticity. Recent advances in instrumentation have also provided access to membrane dynamics at the solid-liquid interface with grazing incidence NSE (GINSES).

The possibility of contrast variation by deuteration in neutron scattering provides an insight into the properties of individual components in the liquid state on nanometer length scales that is not accessible through other techniques.

This Research topic aims to bring together different aspects of membrane structure and membrane dynamics, where neutron scattering techniques are applied to obtain a detailed understanding of structural, mechanical, and thermodynamic properties of membranes. The chemical composition of different types of self-assembled membranes and the interaction with embedded or adsorbed molecules on the mechanical properties of the membranes shall be investigated. In phospholipid membranes, for example, a particularly hot topic is the study of the influence of different membrane components such as cholesterol, or pharmaceuticals such as ibuprofen. The aim of this article collection is to illustrate the plethora of membrane aspects that can be studied with state-of-the-art neutron scattering techniques.

The scope of this Research Topic spans recent topics in membrane structure (from elasticity and relation to function, to surfactant membranes in microemulsions) and dynamics studied with modern neutron scattering instruments. We welcome Original Research and Mini-Review submissions in the following areas:

 • Studies in structural information acquired with NR and SANS, but also on very local scales with other neutron diffraction techniques, potentially complemented with molecular dynamics simulations
 • Large-scale dynamics of the entire membrane with NSE spectroscopy, as well as more local motions of single constituents of the membrane, as can be studied with backscattering spectroscopy and time-of-flight techniques in neutron scattering
 • The influence of proteins and drug molecules on phospholipid membranes
 • Thermodynamics and phase behavior of microemulsions


Keywords: phospholipid membranes, microemulsions, thermal fluctuations, neutron scattering, membrane structure


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

23 June 2020 Abstract
21 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

23 June 2020 Abstract
21 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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