3D Conformations of Thick Synthetic Polymer Chains Observed by Cryogenic Electron Microscopy
D. Messmer, C. Böttcher, H. Yu, A. Halperin, K. Binder, M. Kröger and A. D. Schlüter – 2019
The backbone conformations of individual, unperturbed synthetic macromolecules have so far not been observed directly in spite of their fundamental importance to polymer physics. Here we report the dilute solution conformations of two types of linear dendronized polymers, obtained by cryogenic transmission electron stereography and tomography. The three-dimensional trajectories show that the wormlike chain model fails to adequately describe the scaling of these thick macromolecules already beyond a few nanometers in chain length, in spite of large apparent persistence lengths and long before a signature of self-avoidance appears. This insight is essential for understanding the limitations of polymer physical models, and it motivated us to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this approach in comparison to the commonly applied scattering techniques.