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Science. 2003 Sep 12;301(5639):1515-9.

Observation of polymer conformation hysteresis in extensional flow.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Highly extensible Escherichia coli DNA molecules in planar extensional flow were visualized in dilute solution by fluorescence microscopy. For a narrow range of flow strengths, the molecules were found in either a coiled or highly extended conformation, depending on the deformation history of the polymer. This conformation hysteresis persists for many polymer relaxation times and is due to conformation-dependent hydrodynamic forces. Polymer conformational free-energy landscapes were calculated from computer simulations and show two free-energy minima for flow strengths near the coil-stretch transition. Hysteresis cycles may directly influence bulk-solution stresses and the development of stress-strain relations for dilute polymer flows.

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