How does a flexible chain of active particles swell?

J Chem Phys. 2015 Mar 28;142(12):124905. doi: 10.1063/1.4916134.


We study the swelling of a flexible linear chain composed of active particles by analytical theory and computer simulation. Three different situations are considered: a free chain, a chain confined to an external harmonic trap, and a chain dragged at one end. First, we consider an ideal chain with harmonic springs and no excluded volume between the monomers. The Rouse model of polymers is generalized to the case of self-propelled monomers and solved analytically. The swelling, as characterized by the spatial extension of the chain, scales with the monomer number defining a Flory exponent ν which is ν = 1/2, 0, 1 in the three different situations. As a result, we find that activity does not change the Flory exponent but affects the prefactor of the scaling law. This can be quantitatively understood by mapping the system onto an equilibrium chain with a higher effective temperature such that the chain swells under an increase of the self-propulsion strength. We then use computer simulations to study the effect of self-avoidance on active polymer swelling. In the three different situations, the Flory exponent is now ν = 3/4, 1/4, 1 and again unchanged under self-propulsion. However, the chain extension behaves non-monotonic in the self-propulsion strength.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Elasticity
  • Models, Chemical
  • Polymers / chemistry*


  • Polymers