Single Polymer Dynamics in an Elongational Flow

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Science  27 Jun 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5321, pp. 2016-2021
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5321.2016

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The stretching of individual polymers in a spatially homogeneous velocity gradient was observed through use of fluorescently labeled DNA molecules. The probability distribution of molecular extension was determined as a function of time and strain rate. Although some molecules reached steady state, the average extension did not, even after a ∼300-fold distortion of the underlying fluid element. At the highest strain rates, distinct conformational shapes with differing dynamics were observed. There was considerable variation in the onset of stretching, and chains with a dumbbell shape stretched more rapidly than folded ones. As the strain rate was increased, chains did not deform with the fluid element. The steady-state extension can be described by a model consisting of two beads connected by a spring representing the entropic elasticity of a worm-like chain, but the average dynamics cannot.

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