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Phys Rev E 2021 Jan;103(1-1):012501

Department of Physics, University of Prince Edward Island, 550 University Avenue, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island C1A 4P3, Canada.

Polymers confined to a narrow channel are subject to strong entropic forces that tend to drive the molecules apart. In this study, we use Monte Carlo computer simulations to study the segregation behavior of two flexible hard-sphere polymers under confinement in a cylindrical channel. We focus on the effects of using polymers of different lengths. We measure the variation of the conformational free energy, F, with the center-of-mass separation distance, λ. The simulations reveal four different separation regimes, characterized by different scaling properties of the free energy with respect to the polymer lengths and the channel diameter, D. We propose a regime map in which the state of the system is determined by the values of the quantities N_{2}/N_{1} and λ/(N_{1}+N_{2})D^{-β}, where N_{1} and N_{2} are the polymer lengths, and where β≈0.64. The observed scaling behavior of F(λ) in each regime is in reasonable agreement with predictions using a simple theoretical model. In addition, we use MC dynamics simulations to study the segregation dynamics of initially overlapping polymers by measurement of the incremental mean first-passage time with respect to λ. For systems characterized by a wide range of λ in which a short polymer is nested within a longer one, the segregation dynamics are close to that expected for two noninteracting one-dimensional random walkers undergoing unbiased diffusion. When the free-energy gradient is large, segregation is rapid and characterized by out-of-equilibrium effects.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevE.103.012501 | DOI Listing |

January 2021