Complex morphologies in lipid membranes typically arise due to chemical heterogeneity, but in the tilted gel phase, complex shapes can form spontaneously even in a membrane containing only a single lipid component. We explore this phenomenon via experiments and coarse-grained simulations on giant unilamellar vesicles of 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine. When cooled from the untilted L-alpha liquid-crystalline phase into the L-beta, tilted gel phase, vesicles deform from smooth spheres to disordered, highly crumpled shapes. We propose that this shape evolution is driven by nucleation of complex membrane microstructure with topological defects in the tilt orientation that induce nonuniform membrane curvature. Coarse-grained simulations demonstrate this mechanism and show that kinetic competition between curvature change and defect motion can trap vesicles in deeply metastable, defect-rich structures.
Experiments have investigated shape changes of polymer films induced by asymmetric swelling by a chemical vapor. Inspired by recent work on the shaping of elastic sheets by non-Euclidean metrics [ Y. Klein, E. Efrati and E. Sharon Science 315 1116 (2007)], we represent the effect of chemical vapors by a change in the target metric tensor. In this problem, unlike that earlier work, the target metric is asymmetric between the two sides of the film. Changing this metric induces a curvature of the film, which may curve into a partial cylinder or a partial sphere. We calculate the elastic energy for each of these shapes and show that the sphere is favored for films smaller than a critical size, which depends on the film thickness, while the cylinder is favored for larger films.