Thursday, November 17, 2016

DNA as a Model for Probing Polymer Entanglements: Circular Polymers and Non-Classical Dynamics

Kathryn Regan, Shea Ricketts and Rae M. Robertson-Anderson

Double-stranded DNA offers a robust platform for investigating fundamental questions regarding the dynamics of entangled polymer solutions. The exceptional monodispersity and multiple naturally occurring topologies of DNA, as well as a wide range of tunable lengths and concentrations that encompass the entanglement regime, enable direct testing of molecular-level entanglement theories and corresponding scaling laws. DNA is also amenable to a wide range of techniques from passive to nonlinear measurements and from single-molecule to bulk macroscopic experiments. Over the past two decades, researchers have developed methods to directly visualize and manipulate single entangled DNA molecules in steady-state and stressed conditions using fluorescence microscopy, particle tracking and optical tweezers. Developments in microfluidics, microrheology and bulk rheology have also enabled characterization of the viscoelastic response of entangled DNA from molecular levels to macroscopic scales and over timescales that span from linear to nonlinear regimes. Experiments using DNA have uniquely elucidated the debated entanglement properties of circular polymers and blends of linear and circular polymers. Experiments have also revealed important lengthscale and timescale dependent entanglement dynamics not predicted by classical tube models, both validating and refuting new proposed extensions and alternatives to tube theory and motivating further theoretical work to describe the rich dynamics exhibited in entangled polymer systems.

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