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Lang, Philipp; Frey, Erwin (2018): Disentangling entanglements in biopolymer solutions. In: Nature Communications, Vol. 9, 494
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Abstract

Reptation theory has been highly successful in explaining the unusual material properties of entangled polymer solutions. It reduces the complex many-body dynamics to a single-polymer description, where each polymer is envisaged to be confined to a tube through which it moves in a snake-like fashion. For flexible polymers, reptation theory has been amply confirmed by both experiments and simulations. In contrast, for semiflexible polymers, experimental and numerical tests are either limited to the onset of reptation, or were performed for tracer polymers in a fixed, static matrix. Here, we report Brownian dynamics simulations of entangled solutions of semiflexible polymers, which show that curvilinear motion along a tube (reptation) is no longer the dominant mode of dynamics. Instead, we find that polymers disentangle due to correlated constraint release, which leads to equilibration of internal bending modes before polymers diffuse the full tube length. The physical mechanism underlying terminal stress relaxation is rotational diffusion mediated by disentanglement rather than curvilinear motion along a tube.