Optical-Tweezers-integrating-Differential-Dynamic-Microscopy maps the spatiotemporal propagation of nonlinear strains in polymer blends and composites

Nat Commun. 2022 Sep 2;13(1):5180. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-32876-y.


How local stresses propagate through polymeric fluids, and, more generally, how macromolecular dynamics give rise to viscoelasticity are open questions vital to wide-ranging scientific and industrial fields. Here, to unambiguously connect polymer dynamics to force response, and map the deformation fields that arise in macromolecular materials, we present Optical-Tweezers-integrating-Differential -Dynamic-Microscopy (OpTiDMM) that simultaneously imposes local strains, measures resistive forces, and analyzes the motion of the surrounding polymers. Our measurements with blends of ring and linear polymers (DNA) and their composites with stiff polymers (microtubules) uncover an unexpected resonant response, in which strain alignment, superdiffusivity, and elasticity are maximized when the strain rate is comparable to the entanglement rate. Microtubules suppress this resonance, while substantially increasing elastic storage, due to varying degrees to which the polymers buildup, stretch and flow along the strain path, and configurationally relax induced stress. More broadly, the rich multi-scale coupling of mechanics and dynamics afforded by OpTiDDM, empowers its interdisciplinary use to elucidate non-trivial phenomena that sculpt stress propagation dynamics-critical to commercial applications and cell mechanics alike.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Elasticity
  • Microscopy*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Optical Tweezers
  • Polymers*
  • Viscosity


  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Polymers