Conformations and diffusion of flexibly linked colloidal chains

Ruben W. Verweij, Pepijn G. Moerman, Loes P.P. Huijnen, Nathalie E.G. Ligthart, Indrani Chakraborty, Jan Groenewold, Willem K. Kegel, Alfons van Blaaderen, Daniela J. Kraft*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For biologically relevant macromolecules such as intrinsically disordered proteins, internal degrees of freedom that allow for shape changes have a large influence on both the motion and function of the compound. A detailed understanding of the effect of flexibility is needed in order to explain their behavior. Here, we study a model system of freely-jointed chains of three to six colloidal spheres, using both simulations and experiments. We find that in spite of their short lengths, their conformational statistics are well described by two-dimensional Flory theory, while their average translational and rotational diffusivity follow the Kirkwood–Riseman scaling. Their maximum flexibility does not depend on the length of the chain, but is determined by the near-wall in-plane translational diffusion coefficient of an individual sphere. Furthermore, we uncover shape-dependent effects in the short-time diffusivity of colloidal tetramer chains, as well as non-zero couplings between the different diffusive modes. Our findings may have implications for understanding both the diffusive behavior and the most likely conformations of macromolecular systems in biology and industry, such as proteins, polymers, single-stranded DNA and other chain-like molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Article number035002
JournalJPhys Materials
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Brownian motion
  • Colloids
  • Diffusion
  • Flexible bead chains


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