By making dynamic changes to the area of a droplet interface bilayer (DIB), we are able to measure the specific capacitance of lipid bilayers with improved accuracy and precision over existing methods. The dependence of membrane specific capacitance on the chain-length of the alkane oil present in the bilayer is similar to that observed in black lipid membranes. In contrast to conventional artificial bilayers, DIBs are not confined by an aperture, which enables us to determine that the dependence of whole bilayer capacitance on applied potential is predominantly a result of a spontaneous increase in bilayer area. This area change arises from the creation of new bilayer at the three phase interface and is driven by changes in surface tension with applied potential that can be described by the Young-Lippmann equation. By accounting for this area change, we are able to determine the proportion of the capacitance dependence that arises from a change in specific capacitance with applied potential. This method provides a new tool with which to investigate the vertical compression of the bilayer and understand the changes in bilayer thickness with applied potential. We find that, for 1,2-diphytanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine membranes in hexadecane, specific bilayer capacitance varies by 0.6-1.5% over an applied potential of ±100 mV.
© 2011 American Chemical Society