Supported membranes represent an elegant route to designing well-defined fluid interfaces which mimic many physical-chemical properties of biological membranes. Recent years have witnessed rapid growth in the applications of physical and materials science approaches in understanding and controlling lipid membranes. Applying these approaches is enabling the determination of their structure-dynamics-function relations and allowing the design of membrane-mimetic devices. The collection of articles presented in this issue of MRS Bulletin illustrates the breadth of activity in this growing partnership between materials science and biophysics. Together, these articles highlight some of the key challenges of cellular membranes and exemplify their utility in fundamental biophysical studies and technological applications. The topics covered also confirm the importance of lipid membranes as an exciting example of soft condensed matter. We hope that this issue will serve readers by highlighting the intellectual scope and emerging opportunities in this highly interdisciplinary area of materials research.
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