Fiber Network Formation in Semi-Flexible Polymer Solutions: An Exploratory Computational Study
Jack F. Douglas, Luis F. Vargas Lara
The formation of gels through the bundling of semi-flexible polymer chains into fiber networks is ubiquitous in diverse manufactured and natural materials, and, accordingly, we perform exploratory molecular dynamics simulations of a coarse-grained model of semi-flexible polymers in solution having attractive lateral interactions to understand essential features of this type of gel formation. After showing that our model gives rise to fibrous gels resembling real gels of this kind, we investigate how the extent of fiber bundling influences the melting temperature, Tm, and the emergent rigidification of model bundled fibers having a fixed number of chains N within them. Based on our preliminary observations, we suggest the fiber size is kinetically selected by a reduced thermodynamic driving force and a slowing of the dynamics within the fibers associated with their progressive rigidification with the inclusion of an increasing number of chains in the bundle.