Crossover from rouse to reptation dynamics in salt-free polyelectrolyte complex coacervates

Boyuan Yu, Phillip M. Rauscher, Nicholas E. Jackson, Artem M. Rumyantsev, Juan J. De Pablo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerable interest in the dynamics and rheology of polyelectrolyte complex coacervates has been motivated by their industrial application as viscosity modifiers. A central question is the extent to which classical Rouse and reptation models can be applied to systems where electrostatic interactions play a critical role on the thermodynamics. By relying on molecular simulations, we present a direct analysis of the crossover from Rouse to reptation dynamics in salt-free complex coacervates as a function of chain length. This crossover shifts to shorter chain lengths as electrostatic interactions become stronger, which corresponds to the formation of denser coacervates. To distinguish the roles of Coulomb interactions and density, we compare the dynamics of coacervates to those of neutral, semidilute solutions at the same density. Both systems exhibit a universal dynamical behavior in the connectivity-dominated (subdiffusion and normal diffusion) regimes, but the monomer relaxation time in coacervates is much longer and increases with increasing Bjerrum length. This is similar to the cage effect observed in glass-forming polymers, but the local dynamical slowdown is caused here by strong Coulomb attractions (ion pairing) between oppositely charged monomers. Our findings provide a microscopic framework for the quantitative understanding of coacervate dynamics and rheology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1318-1324
Number of pages7
JournalACS Macro Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 15 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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