Solenoids and plectonemes in stretched and twisted elastomeric filaments

Phys Rev Lett. 2005 Jul 29;95(5):057801. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.95.057801. Epub 2005 Jul 25.


We study the behavior of a naturally straight highly extensible elastic filament subjected to large extensional and twisting strains. We find that two different phases can coexist for a range of parameter values: the plectoneme and the solenoid. A simple theory based on a neo-Hookean model for the material of the filament and accounting for the slender geometry suffices to explain these observations, and leads to a phase diagram that is consistent with observations. Extension and relaxation experiments on these phases show the presence of large hysteresis loops and sawtooth-like force-displacement curves which are different for the plectoneme and the solenoid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Elasticity
  • Elastomers / analysis
  • Elastomers / chemistry
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / chemistry*
  • Motion
  • Multiprotein Complexes / chemistry*
  • Multiprotein Complexes / ultrastructure*
  • Plectonema / chemistry*
  • Plectonema / physiology
  • Protein Conformation
  • Rubber / analysis
  • Rubber / chemistry*
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Elastomers
  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Rubber