Monday, January 21, 2019

New moves for polymer chain dynamics

A Nobel-winning method for observing single molecules in action provides the basis for unprecedented insights into polymer chain dynamics.

​A technique that enables researchers to watch the motion of individual molecules within a polymer has been developed by KAUST: it challenges current thinking about polymer physics and could lead to new materials that can be tailored for specific tasks.

Polymers are a large and diverse family of materials ranging from hard, rigid plastics to flexible, stretchy gels. At the microscopic level, polymers consist of long-chain molecules that are tangled together like a nanoscale plate of spaghetti. The properties of a polymer material arise from the way its component polymer chains move and interact with each other. Until now, researchers’ ability to fully understand polymer properties was hampered because it was impossible to observe individual polymer chain motion.

Satoshi Habuchi and his team have overcome this limitation using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy. “Fluorescence imaging is an excellent technique to capture real-time behavior of dynamic systems,” says Maram Abadi, a member of Habuchi’s team.

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Image: A new technique developed by Maram Abadi (left), Satoshi Habuchi and colleagues challenges current thinking about polymer physics.
© 2018 KAUST