Polymers - a brief introduction


Polymers are long, chain-link chemical structures that are the basis for a plethora
of modern materials used in home and industry. Many commonly found materials
are actually polymers, the most pervasive of these are the various kind of plastics
we use everyday, which are the product of synthetic or semi-synthetic polymerization.
The ability to control the types of atoms composing the polymer, their order,
the concentration and length of the formed chains as well as cross-linking between chains
allow the creation of materials with wildly different qualities such as melting point, rigidity,
plasticity, impact resistance etc'.
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The basic unit from which a polymer is made is called a monomer which can be as small
as a single atom or a very long chain of atoms. Polymers consist of long (usually repeating)
chains of linked monomers.

Good analytical predictions for basic qualities of a polymer like the radius of gyration can be found
using simple models like the ideal or Gaussian chain models.
As a computational approach, a relatively good starting point for modeling polymers
is the random walk. Random walks can be easily generated on a computer with rudimentary
programming skills, and the basic cubic lattice-based model can be developed further by adding
self-avoidance (to take into account excluded-volume effects) as well exploring different
types of lattices and different probability distributions for the generation of steps in the walk.

Some example data files were generated to demonstrate the new bonding mode added to AViz.
These data files are included in the package available from the main page and are also shown
below accompanied a short description.


multiple entangled polymers
This data file, rwalk.xyz shows a single self-avoiding random walk.
It serves as a rudimentary example of the new bonding mode in AViz. Generated using randomwalk.nb (Mathematica notebook).
This data file, mul-walk.xyz shows multiple lattice random walks with an excluded volume constraint. Generated using
randomwalk.nb (Mathematica notebook).
picture of polymer
This lovely image is based on more realistic simulation data generously
provided by the Theoretical Biophysics Group at Heidelberg.



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