Effect of hydrophobic mismatch on phase behavior of lipid membranes.
We investigate the competing effects of hydrophobic mismatch and chain stretching on the morphology and evolution of domains in lipid membranes via Monte Carlo techniques. We model the membrane as a binary mixture of particles that differ in their preferred lengths, with the shorter particles mimicking unsaturated nonraft lipids and the longer particles mimicking saturated raft lipids. We find that phase separation can be induced upon increasing either the ratio J/kappa of the hydrophobic surface tension J to the compressibility modulus kappa. J/kappa determines the decay length for thickness changes. When this decay length is larger than the system size the membrane remains mixed. Furthermore, increasing the thickness relaxation time can induce transient phase separation.