Facilitated dynamics of an active polymer in 2D crowded environments with obstacles

S Wu and JX Li and QL Lei, SOFT MATTER, 18, 9263-9272 (2022).

DOI: 10.1039/d2sm00974a

Understanding the behaviors of a single active chain in complex environments is not only an interesting topic in non-equilibrium physics but also has applicative implications in biological/medical engineering. In this work, by using molecular simulations, we systematically study the dynamical and conformational behaviors of an active polymer in crowded environments, i.e., a single active chain confined in 2D space with randomly arranged obstacles. We found that the competition between the chain's activity and rigidity in the presence of obstacles leads to many interesting dynamical and conformational states, such as the diffusive expanded state, the diffusive collapsed state, and the localized collapsed state. Importantly, we found a counter-intuitive phenomenon, i.e., crowded environments facilitate the diffusion of the active polymer within a large parameter space. As the crowdedness (packing fraction of obstacles) increases, the parameter space in which crowding-enhanced diffusion occurs still remains. This abnormal dynamics is attributed to a structural reason that the obstacles prevent active chains from collapsing. Our findings capture some generic features of active polymers in complex environments and provide insights into the design of novel drug delivery systems.

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