Prior studies have shown that during and after slow compressions of monomolecular films containing the complete set of purified phospholipids (PPL) from calf surfactant at an air/water interface, surface pressures (π) reach and sustain values that are remarkably high relative to expectations from simple systems with model lipids. Microscopy shows that the liquid-expanded, tilted-condensed, and collapsed phases are present together in the PPL films between 45 and 65 mN/m. The Gibbs phase rule restricts equilibrium coexistence of three phases to a single π for films with two components but not for more constituents. We therefore determined if the surprising stability of PPL reflects release from the thermodynamic restrictions of simple model systems by the presence of multiple components. Experiments with binary films containing dioleoyl phosphatidylcholine and dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine first tested the predictions of the phase rule. The onset of three-phase coexistence, determined by fluorescence microscopy, and its termination, established by relaxation of collapsing films on a captive bubble, occurred at similar π. Experiments for PPL using the same methods suggested that the three phases might coexist over a range of π, but limited to ∼2 mN/m, and extending below rather than above the coexistence π for the binary films. Our results show that the PPL films at high π must deviate from equilibrium and that they must then be metastable.
ASJC Scopus subject areas