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Communication: When does a branched polymer become a particle?
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Polymer melts with topologically distinct molecular structures, namely, linear chain, ring, and star polymers, are investigated by molecular dynamics simulation. In particular, we determine the mean polymer size and shape, and glass transition temperature for each molecular topology. Both in terms of structure and dynamics, unknotted ring polymers behave similarly to star polymers with f ≈ 5–6 star arms, close to a configurational transition point between anisotropic chains to spherically symmetric particle-like structures. These counter-intuitive findings raise fundamental questions regarding the importance of free chain-ends and chain topology in the packing and dynamics of polymeric materials.
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