Europhys. Lett.
Volume 71, Number 1, July 2005
Page(s) 49 - 55
Section Atomic and molecular physics
Published online 27 May 2005
Europhys. Lett., 71 (1), pp. 49-55 (2005)
DOI: 10.1209/epl/i2005-10062-x

Self-consistent variational theory for globules

A. Dua and T. A. Vilgis

Max-Planck-Institute for Polymer Research - Ackermannweg 10, 55128 Mainz, Germany

received 17 March 2005; accepted in final form 4 May 2005
published online 27 May 2005

A self-consistent variational theory for globules based on the uniform expansion method is presented. This method, first introduced by Edwards and Singh to estimate the size of a self-avoinding chain, is restricted to a good-solvent regime, where two-body repulsion leads to chain swelling. We extend the variational method to a poor-solvent regime where the balance between the two-body attractive and the three-body repulsive interactions leads to contraction of the chain to form a globule. By employing the Ginzburg criterion, we recover the correct scaling for the $\theta$-temperature. The introduction of the three-body interaction term in the variational scheme recovers the correct scaling for the two important length scales in the globule -its overall size R, and the thermal blob size $\xi_{T}$. Since these two length scales follow very different statistics -Gaussian on length scales $\xi_{T}$, and space filling on length scale R- our approach extends the validity of the uniform expansion method to non-uniform contraction rendering it applicable to polymeric systems with attractive interactions. We present one such application by studying the Rayleigh instability of polyelectrolyte globules in poor solvents. At a critical fraction of charged monomers, fc, along the chain backbone, we observe a clear indication of a first-order transition from a globular state at small f to a stretched state at large f; in the intermediate regime the bistable equilibrium between these two states shows the existence of a pearl-necklace structure.

36.20.-r - Macromolecules and polymer molecules.
61.25.Hq - Macromolecular and polymer solutions; polymer melts; swelling.
82.35.Rs - Polyelectrolytes.

© EDP Sciences 2005