Microscopic Theory of Long-Time Center-of-Mass Self-Diffusion and Anomalous Transport in Ring Polymer Liquids

Baicheng Mei, Zachary E. Dell, Kenneth S. Schweizer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We construct a microscopic theory at the level of segment-scale correlated space-time intermolecular forces for the long-time center-of-mass (CM) diffusion constant and intermediate-time non-Fickian transport in dense solutions and melts of ring polymers. The approach combines ideas of polymer, colloid, and liquid-state statistical mechanics to quantify how the multifractal intra-ring conformational structure and inter-ring packing correlations determine dynamic caging constraints and time-dependent friction. Breakdown of Rouse theory is predicted to occur due to length scale-dependent temporal correlation of forces exerted on pairs of tagged ring segments from surrounding polymers. At large enough degrees of polymerization (N), a stronger scaling of the CM diffusion constant (D N-2) is predicted, with a crossover ND proportional to the product of the system-specific macromolecular volume fraction and dimensionless compressibility. In analogy with caging effects in glass-forming fluids, the theory does appear to begin to fail at sufficiently high N/ND for the center-of-mass diffusivity, likely due to another crossover to an even slower activated transport regime. However, use of N/ND with the theoretically predicted ND, in conjunction with dynamic blob scaling ideas for local Rouse friction, collapses semidilute and concentrated solution simulation data onto a master curve. Based on the same physical ideas employed to predict the diffusion constant, a generalized Langevin equation description is formulated for intermediate-time CM transport. It predicts two subdiffusive regimes that emerge due to the self-similar nature of internal ring structure. Analytic and numerical predictions for the apparent non-Fickian exponent as a function of time, N/ND and dimensionless compressibility, the evolution of the maximum degree of subdiffusive motion with N/ND, and the time scale for recovering Fickian diffusion are made, all of which are in good accordance with melt simulations. The present work sets the stage to address activated dynamics and glass formation on the macromolecular scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10431-10445
Number of pages15
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 8 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Microscopic Theory of Long-Time Center-of-Mass Self-Diffusion and Anomalous Transport in Ring Polymer Liquids'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this