What is it about?

Although the behavior of single molecules drives our understanding of polymer physics, it is surprising that there are very few images that depict how these molecules interact with one another in a bulk environment. This work uses super-resolution optical microscopy to capture single chain behavior.

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Why is it important?

This work provides a clear and convincing picture of a polymer chain surrounded by other polymers in the solid state over 100 y after the molecular definition of polymers was first proposed. We achieve this feat using super-resolution optical microscopy, which provides resolution sufficient for the nanoscale detail and provides contrast of individual chains from the surrounding background through fluorescent labeling. We measure the conformation of these polymers directly from their images and show that their rigidity is significantly different from that in solution. Further analysis investigates the dependence of conformation on various parameters, such as polymer branching and the features of the surrounding polymers.

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This page is a summary of: Direct visualization of bottlebrush polymer conformations in the solid state, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2109534118.
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