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Published December 22, 2003 | Published
Journal Article Open

Semiflexible polymer solutions. I. Phase behavior and single-chain statistics


We study the thermodynamics and single-chain statistics of wormlike polymer solutions with Maier–Saupe-type interactions using self-consistent-field (SCF) theory. The SCF equations are derived using a systematic field-theoretical approach which yields the SCF equations as the lowest order approximation, but permits fluctuation corrections to be incorporated. We solve the SCF equations using the spheroidal functions, which provides a nonperturbative description of the thermodynamics and single-chain statistics in the nematic state for arbitrary degrees of nematic order. Several types of phase diagrams are predicted, with an emphasis on the limit of metastability (spinodal) associated with each phase. The shape and location of these spinodals suggest interesting scenarios for the phase transition kinetics. A large but finite persistence length is shown to significantly decrease the isotropic–nematic transition temperature relative to that for rigid rods. In the nematic state, the mean-square end-to-end distance in the parallel and perpendicular directions are governed by two separate correlation lengths. An exact relationship between these correlation lengths and the eigenvalues of the spheroidal functions is provided, which reproduces the analytical expressions predicted from earlier studies in the limit of large nematic strength. The dominant contribution to the single-chain thermodynamics is shown to arise from small amplitude undulations in the directions perpendicular to the nematic direction; the presence of hairpins, though crucial for determining the dimensions of the polymer, has insignificant consequences on the single-chain thermodynamics.

Additional Information

©2003 American Institute of Physics. Received 1 August 2003; accepted 30 September 2003. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (DMR-9970589).

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