Jamming effects in glasses and biopolymers

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Kang, Hongsuk
Thirumalai, Devarajan
In this dissertation, jamming effects in highly packed systems are studied in two specific materials: glasses and biopolymers in cellular environments. Suspensions consisting of highly charged colloids, which are well-known glass-forming systems, are investigated using molecular dynamics simulations in order to test Random First Order Transition (RFOT) theory. I found that there is a critical volume fraction at which ergodic-to-nonergodic transitions for three dynamic observables take place in accordance with RFOT. Based on numerical observations, it is also proposed that the dynamic heterogeneity can be attributed to the violation of law of large numbers. In addition, the bond orientational order of colloidal suspensions and soft-spheres is discussed in the context of liquid-glass transitions. The response of biopolymers to a crowded environment is another interesting issue because 20-40% volume of a cell is occupied by various cellular components such as ribosomes and proteins in vivo. In this work, using low-friction langevin dynamics simulations with explicit crowding particles, I examined the conformational change of biopolymers in the presence of crowders of various sizes and shapes. The simulation results reveal that cylindrical crowders induce much greater compaction of the polymers than spherical ones at low volume fractions and the stronger crowding effects disappear at higher volume fractions due to local nematic ordering of cylindrical particles. The reduction in the size of polymer is even more dramatic in a mixture of spherical and cylindrical shapes because of cooperative crowding effects explained by the phase separation of spheres and rodlike particles. Finally, the crowding effects of cellular components on bacterial chromosomes are estimated using a mixture of spherical crowders with the composition found in bacterial cytoplasms.