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ETHOS Broomall Adolescent IOP (Mon/Wed/Fri)

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Polymer Physics

Polymer physics is the field of physics that studies polymers, their fluctuations, mechanical properties, as well as the kinetics of reactions involving degradation and polymerisation of polymers and monomers respectively.[1][2][3][4]

Polymer Physics

While it focuses on the perspective of condensed matter physics, polymer physics is originally a branch of statistical physics. Polymer physics and polymer chemistry are also related with the field of polymer science, where this is considered the applicative part of polymers.

Polymers are large molecules and thus are very complicated for solving using a deterministic method. Yet, statistical approaches can yield results and are often pertinent, since large polymers (i.e., polymers with many monomers) are describable efficiently in the thermodynamic limit of infinitely many monomers (although the actual size is clearly finite).

Thermal fluctuations continuously affect the shape of polymers in liquid solutions, and modeling their effect requires using principles from statistical mechanics and dynamics. As a corollary, temperature strongly affects the physical behavior of polymers in solution, causing phase transitions, melts, and so on.

The statistical approach for polymer physics is based on an analogy between a polymer and either a Brownian motion, or other type of a random walk, the self-avoiding walk. The simplest possible polymer model is presented by the ideal chain, corresponding to a simple random walk. Experimental approaches for characterizing polymers are also common, using polymer characterization methods, such as size exclusion chromatography, viscometry, dynamic light scattering, and Automatic Continuous Online Monitoring of Polymerization Reactions (ACOMP)[5][6] for determining the chemical, physical, and material properties of polymers. These experimental methods also helped the mathematical modeling of polymers and even for a better understanding of the properties of polymers.

Models of polymer chains are split into two types: "ideal" models, and "real" models. Ideal chain models assume that there are no interactions between chain monomers. This assumption is valid for certain polymeric systems, where the positive and negative interactions between the monomer effectively cancel out. Ideal chain models provide a good starting point for the investigation of more complex systems and are better suited for equations with more parameters.

The statistics of a single polymer chain depends upon the solubility of the polymer in the solvent. For a solvent in which the polymer is very soluble (a "good" solvent), the chain is more expanded, while for a solvent in which the polymer is insoluble or barely soluble (a "bad" solvent), the chain segments stay close to each other. In the limit of a very bad solvent the polymer chain merely collapses to form a hard sphere, while in a good solvent the chain swells in order to maximize the number of polymer-fluid contacts. For this case the radius of gyration is approximated using Flory's mean field approach which yields a scaling for the radius of gyration of:

where R g \displaystyle R_g is the radius of gyration of the polymer, N \displaystyle N is the number of bond segments (equal to the degree of polymerization) of the chain and ν \displaystyle \nu is the Flory exponent.

The quality of solvent depends also on temperature. For a flexible polymer, low temperature may correspond to poor quality and high temperature makes the same solvent good. At a particular temperature called theta (θ) temperature, the solvent behaves as if an ideal chain.

The ideal chain model assumes that polymer segments can overlap with each other as if the chain were a phantom chain. In reality, two segments cannot occupy the same space at the same time. This interaction between segments is called the excluded volume interaction.

The simplest formulation of excluded volume is the self-avoiding random walk, a random walk that cannot repeat its previous path. A path of this walk of N steps in three dimensions represents a conformation of a polymer with excluded volume interaction. Because of the self-avoiding nature of this model, the number of possible conformations is significantly reduced. The radius of gyration is generally larger than that of the ideal chain.

Whether a polymer is flexible or not depends on the scale of interest. For example, the persistence length of double-stranded DNA is about 50 nm. Looking at length scale smaller than 50 nm, it behaves more or less like a rigid rod.[12] At length scale much larger than 50 nm, it behaves like a flexible chain.

Reptation is the thermal motion of very long linear, entangled basicallymacromolecules in polymer melts or concentrated polymer solutions. Derived from the word reptile, reptation suggests the movement of entangled polymer chains as being analogous to snakes slithering through one another.[13] Pierre-Gilles de Gennes introduced (and named) the concept of reptation into polymer physics in 1971 to explain the dependence of the mobility of a macromolecule on its length. Reptation is used as a mechanism to explain viscous flow in an amorphous polymer.[14][15] Sir Sam Edwards and Masao Doi later refined reptation theory.[16][17] The consistent theory of thermal motion of polymers was given be Vladimir Pokrovskii[18] .[19] [20] Similar phenomena also occur in proteins.[21]

The study of long chain polymers has been a source of problems within the realms of statistical mechanics since about the 1950s. One of the reasons however that scientists were interested in their study is that the equations governing the behavior of a polymer chain were independent of the chain chemistry. What is more, the governing equation turns out to be a random walk, or diffusive walk, in space. Indeed, the Schrödinger equation is itself a diffusion equation in imaginary time, t' = it.

From the diffusion equation it can be shown that the distance a diffusing particle moves in a medium is proportional to the root of the time the system has been diffusing for, where the proportionality constant is the root of the diffusion constant. The above relation, although cosmetically different reveals similar physics, where N is simply the number of steps moved (is loosely connected with time) and b is the characteristic step length. As a consequence we can consider diffusion as a random walk process.

There are two types of random walk in space: self-avoiding random walks, where the links of the polymer chain interact and do not overlap in space, and pure random walks, where the links of the polymer chain are non-interacting and links are free to lie on top of one another. The former type is most applicable to physical systems, but their solutions are harder to get at from first principles.

This result is known as the entropic spring result and amounts to saying that upon stretching a polymer chain you are doing work on the system to drag it away from its (preferred) equilibrium state. An example of this is a common elastic band, composed of long chain (rubber) polymers. By stretching the elastic band you are doing work on the system and the band behaves like a conventional spring, except that unlike the case with a metal spring, all of the work done appears immediately as thermal energy, much as in the thermodynamically similar case of compressing an ideal gas in a piston.

It might at first be astonishing that the work done in stretching the polymer chain can be related entirely to the change in entropy of the system as a result of the stretching. However, this is typical of systems that do not store any energy as potential energy, such as ideal gases. That such systems are entirely driven by entropy changes at a given temperature, can be seen whenever it is the case that are allowed to do work on the surroundings (such as when an elastic band does work on the environment by contracting, or an ideal gas does work on the environment by expanding). Because the free energy change in such cases derives entirely from entropy change rather than internal (potential) energy conversion, in both cases the work done can be drawn entirely from thermal energy in the polymer, with 100% efficiency of conversion of thermal energy to work. In both the ideal gas and the polymer, this is made possible by a material entropy increase from contraction that makes up for the loss of entropy from absorption of the thermal energy, and cooling of the material.

To recognize outstanding accomplishment and excellence of contributions in polymer physics research. The prize consists of $10,000, up to $1,500 in travel reimbursement, and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient. It is presented annually.

The membership of APS is diverse and global, and the nominees and recipients of APS Honors should reflect that diversity so that all are recognized for their impact on our community. Nominations of members belonging to groups traditionally underrepresented in physics, such as women, LGBT+ scientists, scientists who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), disabled scientists, scientists from institutions with limited resources, and scientists from outside the United States, are especially encouraged.

The purpose of this meeting is to highlight the research of the next generation of polymer physicists. Throughout the seminar, attendees will reimagine how their skills in polymer physics can be leveraged to create a more sustainable future. The meeting will culminate in a panel discussion on "Careers in Polymer Physics Beyond Academia" that will feature current leaders in polymer physics with unique career trajectories in industry, academia and national laboratories.

The properties of unfolded proteins have long been of interest because of their importance to the protein folding process. Recently, the surprising prevalence of unstructured regions or entirely disordered proteins under physiological conditions has led to the realization that such intrinsically disordered proteins can be functional even in the absence of a folded structure. However, owing to their broad conformational distributions, many of the properties of unstructured proteins are difficult to describe with the established concepts of structural biology. We have thus seen a reemergence of polymer physics as a versatile framework for understanding their structure and dynamics. An important driving force for these developments has been single-molecule spectroscopy, as it allows structural heterogeneity, intramolecular distance distributions, and dynamics to be quantified over a wide range of timescales and solution conditions. Polymer concepts provide an important basis for relating the physical properties of unstructured proteins to folding and function. 041b061a72


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