Article

Exact theory of kinkable elastic polymers

Division of Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.
Physical Review E (Impact Factor: 2.33). 03/2005; 71(2 Pt 1):021909. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.71.021909
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The importance of nonlinearities in material constitutive relations has long been appreciated in the continuum mechanics of macroscopic rods. Although the moment (torque) response to bending is almost universally linear for small deflection angles, many rod systems exhibit a high-curvature softening. The signature behavior of these rod systems is a kinking transition in which the bending is localized. Recent DNA cyclization experiments by Cloutier and Widom have offered evidence that the linear-elastic bending theory fails to describe the high-curvature mechanics of DNA. Motivated by this recent experimental work, we develop a simple and exact theory of the statistical mechanics of linear-elastic polymer chains that can undergo a kinking transition. We characterize the kinking behavior with a single parameter and show that the resulting theory reproduces both the low-curvature linear-elastic behavior which is already well described by the worm-like chain model, as well as the high-curvature softening observed in recent cyclization experiments.

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