Statistical and Biological Physics

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Statistical Mechanics of Semiflexible Bundles of Wormlike Polymer Chains: The wormlike bundle model

Claus Heussinger, Mark Bathe, and Erwin Frey

The wormlike chain (WLC) has emerged as the standard model for the description of semiflexible polymers. The defining property of a WLC is a mechanical bending stiffness that is an intrinsic material constant of the polymer. Within this framework, numerous correlation and response functions have been calculated, providing a comprehensive picture of the equilibrium and dynamical properties of WLCs. Another important emerging class of semiflexible polymers consists of bundles of WLCs. Unlike standard WLCs, wormlike bundles (WLB) have a state-dependent bending stiffness that derives from a generic interplay between the high stiffness of the individual filaments and their soft relative sliding motion. We demonstrate that this state-dependence gives rise to fundamentally new behavior that cannot be reproduced trivially using existing relations for WLCs. In an article just published in PRL we explore the consequences of a state-dependent bending stiffness on the statistical mechanics of isolated WLBs, as well as on the scaling behavior of their entangled solutions and crosslinked networks.