Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have one of the highest production volumes among carbonaceous engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) worldwide and are have potential uses in applications including biomedicine, nanocomposites, and energy conversion. However, CNTs possible widespread usage and associated likelihood for biological exposures have driven concerns regarding their nanotoxicity and ecological impact. In this work, we probe the responses of planar suspended lipid bilayer membranes, used as model cell membranes, to functionalized multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT), CdSe/ZnS quantum dots, and a control organic compound, melittin, using an electrophysiological measurement platform. The electrophysiological measurements show that MWCNTs in a concentration range of 1.6-12 ppm disrupt lipid membranes by inducing significant transmembrane current fluxes, which suggest that MWCNTs insert and traverse the lipid bilayer membrane, forming transmembrane carbon nanotubes channels that allow the transport of ions. This paper demonstrates a direct measurement of ion migration across lipid bilayers induced by CNTs. Electrophysiological measurements can provide unique insights into the lipid bilayer-ENPs interactions and have the potential to serve as a preliminary screening tool for nanotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-75
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Aug 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science


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