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Title: Toward a 3D physical model of diffusive polymer chains
Recent studies in polymer physics have created macro-scale analogs to solute microscopic polymer chains like DNA by inducing diffusive motion on a chain of beads. These bead chains have persistence lengths of O(10) links and undergo diffusive motion under random fluctuations like vibration. We present a bead chain model within a new stochastic forcing system: an air fluidizing bed of granular media. A chain of spherical 6 mm resin beads crimped onto silk thread are buffeted randomly by the multiphase flow of grains and low density rising air “bubbles”. We “thermalize” bead chains of various lengths at different fluidizing airflow rates, while X-ray imaging captures a projection of the chains’ dynamics within the media. With modern 3D printing techniques, we can better represent complex polymers by geometrically varying bead connections and their relative strength, e.g., mimicking the variable stiffness between adjacent nucleotide pairs of DNA. We also develop Discrete Element Method (DEM) simulations to study the 3D motion of the bead chain, where the bead chain is represented by simulated spherical particles connected by linear and angular spring-like bonds. In experiment, we find that the velocity distributions of the beads follow exponential distributions rather than the Gaussian distributions expected from polymers in solution. Through use of the DEM simulation, we find that this difference can likely be attributed to the distributions of the forces imparted onto the chain from the fluidized bed environment. We anticipate expanding this study in the future to explore a wide range of chain composition and confinement geometry, which will provide insights into the physics of large biopolymers.  more » « less
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Frontiers in Physics
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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