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The Ten Classes of Polymeric Phase Transitions: Their Use as Models for Self-Assembly



Edmund A. DiMarzio


A brief overview of the 10 classes of polymer phase transitions is given. In each case the basic physics underlying the transition is given. Special attention is devoted to the polymer threading a membrane transition (PTM) since it allows us to understand the reason for the occurrence of the five classes of transitions unique to the isolated polymer molecule. They are PTM transition; helix to random coil transition; Adsorption; equilibrium polymerization/one-dimensional crystallization; collapse transition. The five classes of transitions of interacting polymers are liquid crystals/plastic crystals; glasses; crystals; liquid-liquid polymer transitions; soaps-block copolymers/membranes-micelles-vesicles. A classification is made of the coupling of these transitions to one another in pairs, triplets, etc. and it is observed that the number of kinds of such transitions is in the thousands. Because of the 5 transitions unique to polymers it is argued that the class of materials richest in the occurrence of phase transitions are polymers. Self-assembly is viewed essentially as materials undergoing phase transitions. It is evident that of all materials, polymers express self-assembly in fullest measure. A classification scheme is given for self-assembled structures both in biology and as a technology opportunity. It is emphasized that the paradigm developed in this paper enriches polymer science by revealing the existence of a large number of problems awaiting solution. It also provides a way to understand biological self-assembly.
Journal of Chemical Physics


biological self-assembly, biopolymers, polymer phase transitions, structure inducing phase trnasitions, ten polymer phase transitions


DiMarzio, E. (1999), The Ten Classes of Polymeric Phase Transitions: Their Use as Models for Self-Assembly, Journal of Chemical Physics, [online], (Accessed June 19, 2024)


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Created January 1, 1999, Updated February 17, 2017