Polymers Without Beginning or End

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Science  20 Sep 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5589, pp. 2005-2006
DOI: 10.1126/science.1076810

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The ends of polymer chains play an important role in determining the properties of polymeric materials, with the dynamics of linear polymers resembling the reptation of snakes. In his Perspective, McLeish asks what may happen if the polymer molecules had no ends. Theoretical studies suggest that ring polymers consisting entirely of rings should behave more like two-dimensional amoebae than like snakes. An experimental test for this theory may be within reach following the discovery by Bielawski et al. of a catalyst that yields only unlinked ring-shaped polymers.