Imagine the filaments forming the cytoskeleton of a cell. They are confined within the cell membrane. Not only do these filaments influence how the cell might behave mechanically, but how the filaments behave is coupled to the restricted space in which they grow, arrange or combine into networks. Similarly one can think of polymers inside voids of another material, filling cracks or moving between the fillers in an elastomeric material.
For many years we have been interested in the how geometry and stiffness of polymer chains work together. Mainly, this has been through the development of theoretical tools to describe such systems (see paper with Jerry Percus and Harry Frisch; there are others that will appear here shortly) but also recently through a string of simulations performed with Arash Azari at Stellenbosch University and the Centre for High Performance Computing in South Africa.
In a recent paper we investigated polymers of alternating stiffness all confined within a pore. We observe how polymers become separated due to their stiffness.
Theoretical tools (using field-theoretical methods) allow careful analytical and perturbative ways to understand the role of networking, stiffness and inter- and intra-chain interactions.