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Published October 21, 2022 | public
Journal Article

Semiflexible polymer solutions. II. Fluctuations and Frank elastic constants


We study the collective elastic behavior of semiflexible polymer solutions in a nematic liquid-crystalline state using polymer field theory. Our polymer field-theoretic model of semiflexible polymer solutions is extended to include second-order fluctuation corrections to the free energy, permitting the evaluation of the Frank elastic constants based on orientational order fluctuations in the nematic state. Our exact treatment of wormlike chain statistics permits the evaluation of behavior from the nematic state, thus accurately capturing the impact of single-chain behavior on collective elastic response. Results for the Frank elastic constants are presented as a function of aligning field strength and chain length, and we explore the impact of conformation fluctuations and hairpin defects on the twist, splay, and bend moduli. Our results indicate that the twist elastic constant K_twist is smaller than both bend and splay constants (K_bend and K_splay, respectively) for the entire range of polymer rigidity. Splay and bend elastic constants exhibit regimes of dominance over the range of chain stiffness, where K_splay > K_bend for flexible polymers (large-N limit) while the opposite is true for rigid polymers. Theoretical analysis also suggests the splay modulus tracks exactly to that of the end-to-end distance in the transverse direction for semiflexible polymers at intermediate to large-N. These results provide insight into the role of conformation fluctuations and hairpin defects on the collective response of polymer solutions.

Additional Information

This work was supported by the NSF program Condensed Matter and Materials Theory (Grant No. DMR-1855334).

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 24, 2023