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  1. Block copolymers at homopolymer interfaces are poised to play a critical role in the compatibilization of mixed plastic waste, an area of growing importance as the rate of plastic accumulation rapidly increases. Using molecular dynamics simulations of Kremer–Grest polymer chains, we have investigated how the number of blocks and block degree of polymerization in a linear multiblock copolymer impacts the interface thermodynamics of strongly segregated homopolymer blends, which is key to effective compatibilization. The second virial coefficient reveals that interface thermodynamics are more sensitive to block degree of polymerization than to the number of blocks. Moreover, we identify a strong correlation between surface pressure (reduction of interfacial tension) and the spatial uniformity of block junctions on the interface, yielding a morphological framework for interpreting the role of compatibilizer architecture (number of blocks) and block degree of polymerization. These results imply that, especially at high interfacial loading, the choice of architecture of a linear multiblock copolymer compatibilizing surfactant does not greatly affect the modification of interfacial tension. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 21, 2024
  2. We used Langevin dynamics simulations without hydrodynamic interactions to probe knot diffusion mechanisms and the time scales governing the evolution and the spontaneous untying of trefoil knots in nanochannel-confined DNA molecules in the extended de Gennes regime. The knot untying follows an “opening up process,” wherein the initially tight knot continues growing and fluctuating in size as it moves toward the end of the DNA molecule before its annihilation at the chain end. The mean knot size increases significantly and sub-linearly with increasing chain contour length. The knot diffusion in nanochannel-confined DNA molecules is subdiffusive, with the unknotting time scaling with chain contour length with an exponent of 2.64 ± 0.23 to within a 95% confidence interval. The scaling exponent for the mean unknotting time vs chain contour length, along with visual inspection of the knot conformations, suggests that the knot diffusion mechanism is a combination of self-reptation and knot region breathing for the simulated parameters. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 21, 2024
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 28, 2024
  4. Self-consistent field theory is employed to compute the phase behavior of binary blends of conformationally asymmetric, micelle-forming diblock copolymers with miscible corona blocks and immiscible core blocks (a diblock copolymer “alloy”). The calculations focus on establishing conditions that promote the formation of Laves phases by tuning the relative softness of the cores of the two different Laves phase particles via independent control of their conformational asymmetries. Increasing the conformational asymmetry of the more spherical particles of the Laves structure has a stabilizing effect, consistent with the expectations of increased imprinting of the Wigner–Seitz cells on the core/corona interface as conformational asymmetry increases. The resulting phase diagram in the temperature-blend composition space features a more stable Laves phase field than that predicted for conformationally symmetric systems. The phase field closes at low temperatures in favor of macrophase separation between a hexagonally-packed cylinder (hex) phase and a body-centered cubic phase. Companion calculations, using an alloy whose components do not produce a hex phase in the neat melt state, suggest that the Laves phase field in such a blend will persist at strong segregation. 
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  5. We have determined the susceptibility of T4 DNA (166 kilobase pairs, kbp) to fragmentation under steady shear in a cone-and-plate rheometer. After shearing for at least 30 min at a shear rate of [Formula: see text], corresponding to a Reynolds number of [Formula: see text] and a Weissenberg number of [Formula: see text], [Formula: see text]% of the sample is broken into a polydisperse mixture with a number-averaged molecular weight of [Formula: see text] kbp and a polydispersity index of [Formula: see text], as measured by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (with a 95% confidence interval). The molecular weight distributions observed here from a shear flow are similar to those produced by a (dominantly extensional) sink flow of DNA and are qualitatively different than the midpoint scission observed in simple extensional flow. Given the inability of shear flow to produce a sharp coil–stretch transition, the data presented here support a model where polymers can be fragmented in flow without complete extension. These results further indicate that DNA fragmentation by shear is unlikely to be a significant issue in microfluidic devices, and anomalous molecular weight observations in experiments are due to DNA processing prior to observation in the device. 
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