Crooks Fluctuation Theorem for Single Polymer Dynamics in Time-Dependent Flows: Understanding Viscoelastic Hysteresis

Yuecheng Zhou, Folarin Latinwo, Charles M. Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nonequilibrium work relations have fundamentally advanced our understanding of molecular processes. In recent years, fluctuation theorems have been extensively applied to understand transitions between equilibrium steady-states, commonly described by simple control parameters such as molecular extension of a protein or polymer chain stretched by an external force in a quiescent fluid. Despite recent progress, far less is understood regarding the application of fluctuation theorems to processes involving nonequilibrium steady-states such as those described by polymer stretching dynamics in nonequilibrium fluid flows. In this work, we apply the Crooks fluctuation theorem to understand the nonequilibrium thermodynamics of dilute polymer solutions in flow. We directly determine the nonequilibrium free energy for single polymer molecules in flow using a combination of single molecule experiments and Brownian dynamics simulations. We further develop a time-dependent extensional flow protocol that allows for probing viscoelastic hysteresis over a wide range of flow strengths. Using this framework, we define quantities that uniquely characterize the coil-stretch transition for polymer chains in flow. Overall, generalized fluctuation theorems provide a powerful framework to understand polymer dynamics under far-from-equilibrium conditions.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number27
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • fluctuation theorems
  • nonequilibrium thermodynamics
  • polymer dynamics
  • conformation hysteresis
  • viscoelasticity
  • Viscoelasticity
  • Fluctuation theorems
  • Nonequilibrium thermodynamics
  • Polymer dynamics
  • Conformation hysteresis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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