J. Phys. II France
Volume 4, Numéro 10, October 1994
Page(s) 1755 - 1762
DOI: 10.1051/jp2:1994230
J. Phys. II France 4 (1994) 1755-1762

Discontinuous unbinding transitions of flexible membranes

Reinhard Lipowsky

Max-Planck-Institut f$\ddot{\rm u}$r Kolloid- und Grenzfl$\ddot{\rm a}$chenforschung, Kantstr. 55, D-14513 Teltow-Seehof, Germany and Institut f$\ddot{\rm u}$r Festk$\ddot{\rm o}$rperforschung Forschungszentrum J$\ddot{\rm u}$lich, D-52425 Jülich, Germany

(Received 28 June 1994, accepted in final form 4 July 1994)

The adhesion of membranes is often governed by an interaction potential which exhibits a potential barrier at intermediate membrane separations. At low temperatures, the membranes are trapped by the barrier. As the temperature is increased, thermally-excited shape fluctuations act to reduce the strength of this barrier until the membranes undergo an unbinding transition. This transition is discontinuous and continuous for strong and for weak potential barriers, respectively. Thus, the membranes can tunnel through weak barriers but remain trapped by strong ones. A simple criterion in terms of the parameters of the interaction potential is derived by which one can distinguish these two regimes.

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