Brownian motion of flexibly linked colloidal rings

Ruben W. Verweij, Julio Melio, Indrani Chakraborty, Daniela J. Kraft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ring, or cyclic, polymers have unique properties compared to linear polymers, due to their topologically closed structure that has no beginning or end. Experimental measurements on the conformation and diffusion of molecular ring polymers simultaneously are challenging due to their inherently small size. Here, we study an experimental model system for cyclic polymers, that consists of rings of flexibly linked micron-sized colloids with n=4-8 segments. We characterize the conformations of these flexible colloidal rings and find that they are freely jointed up to steric restrictions. We measure their diffusive behavior and compare it to hydrodynamic simulations. Interestingly, flexible colloidal rings have a larger translational and rotational diffusion coefficient compared to colloidal chains. In contrast to chains, their internal deformation mode shows slower fluctuations for n≲8 and saturates for higher values of n. We show that constraints stemming from the ring structure cause this decrease in flexibility for small n and infer the expected scaling of the flexibility as function of ring size. Our findings could have implications for the behavior of both synthetic and biological ring polymers, as well as for the dynamic modes of floppy colloidal materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number034602
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes


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