In a recent paper, a new class of synthetic lipids, which self-assemble to form monolayers on gold surfaces, was introduced. The addn. of a monolayer of phospholipids to these layers results in robust supported lipid bilayers designed to reconstitute transmembrane proteins. This paper presents a detailed characterization of the monolayers and bilayers formed by these lipids and assesses their ability for the incorporation of membrane-spanning proteins. Film balance methods, electron microscopy, surface plasmon resonance, Fourier transform IR measurements and Raman spectroscopy show the feasibility of this concept. However, further modifications to improve the thiolipids are necessary. A new strategy for the formation of laterally structured supported lipid bilayers is discussed and initial results are presented. [on SciFinder (R)]