Unfolding of collapsed polymers in shear flow: Effects of colloid banding structures in confining channels

TitleUnfolding of collapsed polymers in shear flow: Effects of colloid banding structures in confining channels
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsChen, H, Alexander-Katz, A
JournalPhysical Review E
Date Published2014/03/21/

Using hydrodynamic simulations, we demonstrate that confined colloidal suspensions can greatly enhance the unfolding of collapsed single polymers in flow. When colloids come in direct contact with the polymers due to the flow, the collapsed chains become flattened or elongated on the surface of the colloids, increasing the probability of forming large chain protrusions that the flow can pull out to unfold the polymers. This phenomenon may be suppressed if the colloid size is commensurate with the confining channels, where the colloids form well-defined banding structures. Here, we analyze the colloid banding structures in detail and their relation to the chain unfolding. We find that for colloid volume fractions up to 30%, the confined colloids form simple cubic (sc), hexagonal (hex), or a mixture of sc + hex structures. By directly changing the heights of the confining channels, we show that the collapsed polymers unfold the most in the mixed sc + hex structures. The diffuse (not well-defined) bands in the mixed sc + hex structures provide the highest collision probability for the colloids and the polymers, thus enhancing unfolding the most. Without colloidal suspensions, we show that the confining channels alone do not have an observable effect on the unfolding of collapsed polymers. The well-defined colloid bands also suppress the unfolding of noncollapsed polymers. In fact, the average size for noncollapsed chains is even smaller in the well-defined bands than in a channel without any colloids. The appearance of well-defined bands in this case also indicates that lift forces experienced by the polymers in confinement are negligible compared to those exerted by the colloidal band structures. Our results may be important for understanding the dynamics of mixed colloid polymer solutions.