Shape anisotropy of a single random-walk polymer

Charbel Haber, Sami Alom Ruiz, Denis Wirtz

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Random walks have been used to describe a wide variety of systems ranging from cell colonies to polymers. Sixty-five years ago, Kuhn [Kuhn, W. (1934) Kolloid-Z. 68, 2-11] made the prediction, backed later by computer simulations, that the overall shape of a random-walk polymer is aspherical, yet no experimental work has directly tested Kuhn's general idea and subsequent computer simulations. By using fluorescence microscopy, we monitored the conformation of individual, long, random-walk polymers (fluorescently labeled DNA molecules) at equilibrium. We found that a polymer most frequently adopts highly extended, nonfractal structures with a strongly anisotropic shape. The ensemble-average ratio of the lengths of the long and short axes of the best-fit ellipse of the polymer was much larger than unity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10792-10795
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - Sep 26 2000

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