Phospholipid bilayers have been formed on glass, quartz, and silicon surfaces by a sequential transfer of two monolayers at a pressure of approximately 40 dyn/cm from the air-water interface to the solid substrates. Lateral diffusion measurements of L-alpha-dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) bilayers supported on oxidized silicon wafers reveal two sharp phase transitions at temperatures similar to those found in multilayer systems with several different techniques. The diffusion measurements obtained using fluorescence recovery after pattern photobleaching provide evidence for the existence of an intermediate (probably P beta' or ripple) phase in single bilayers. While in the intermediate and high temperature (liquid-crystalline L alpha) phase, the diffusion coefficients do not vary very much with temperature, a strong temperature dependence is observed in the low temperature (gel L beta') phase. This is attributed to defect-mediated diffusion. Lipids in silicon supported bilayers made from L-alpha-dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) or L-alpha-dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine (DMPC) diffuse rapidly above their respective chain-melting transition temperatures. Arrhenius plots show straight lines with activation energies of 40.9 and 43.7 kJ/mol, respectively. Supported DPPC bilayers on oxidized silicon form long tubular liposomes when heated through their oxidized silicon form long tubular liposomes when heated through their chain-melting-phase transition, as viewed with epifluorescence microscopy. It is suggested that this is a consequence of the expansion of the lipid on the fixed solid support. Conversely, DOPC bilayers form large void areas on this substrate upon cooling. Large circular membrane defects (holes) are observed under rapid coating conditions. The formation of these defects is modulated by including small amounts of lyso-L-palmitoyl phosphatidylcholine in the DMPC-supported bilayers. A simple model describes the dependence of hole size and hole number on the concentration of lysolecithin.