The collapse transition of semiflexible polymers. A Monte Carlo simulation of a model system
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Monte Carlo simulations have been performed on a diamond lattice model of semiflexible polymers for a range of flexibilities and a range of chain lengths from 50 to 800 segments. The model includes both repulsive (excluded volume) and attractive segment–segment interactions. It is shown that the polymers group into two classes, "flexible" and "stiff." The flexible polymers exhibit decreasing chain dimensions as the temperature decreases with a gradual collapse from a loose random coil, high temperature state to a dense random coil, low temperature state. The stiffer polymers, on the other hand, exhibit increasing chain dimensions with decreasing temperature until at a critical temperature there is a sudden collapse to an ordered high density, low temperature state. This difference is due to the relative strength of the segment–segment attractive interactions compared to the energetic preference for a trans conformational state over a gauche state. When the attractive interaction is relatively strong (flexible case) the polymer starts to collapse before rotational degrees of freedom freeze out, leading to a disordered dense state. When the attractive interaction is relatively weak (stiff case) the polymer starts to freeze out rotational degrees of freedom before it finally collapses to a highly ordered dense state.