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The head-tail of tadpoles: the dynamics of polymers with a singular shape in a new study

13 May 2020
They are born from the union between a circular component and a linear component and present very special physical characteristics

They are in the shape of a tadpole and interact with each other by harpooning between head and tail, thus presenting interesting and unexpected physical properties. Tadpoles are the large molecules at the centre of the new research just published in the journal ACS Macro Letters, and the result of an international collaboration between SISSA and the Universities of Vienna, Warwick and Edinburgh. In the study, the researchers described how these particular constructs, conceived by the scientists as the union between a circular and a linear polymer, in dense solutions present much “slower” molecular dynamics compared to that recorded by the two parts that make it up: and this is because “heads” and “tails” tend to “capture” each other, in a cascade process.

What is the result? A much less fluid and much more viscous product. The research has been conducted thanks to computer simulations and made it possible to analyse the dynamics of the molecules in a very fine way, with a resolution that is impossible to reproduce in the laboratory. Studies like this, which allow to shed light on the physical behaviour of the macromolecules under specific conditions, are essential for possible future technological applications of polymers, which range from materials engineering to pharmaceuticals.