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Issue 16, 2011
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Gelation of semiflexible polyelectrolytes by multivalent counterions

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Filamentous polyelectrolytes in aqueous solution aggregate into bundles by interactions with multivalent counterions. These effects are well documented by experiment and theory. Theories also predict a gel phase in isotropic rodlike polyelectrolyte solutions caused by multivalent counterion concentrations much lower than those required for filament bundling. We report here the gelation of Pf1 virus, a model semiflexible polyelectrolyte, by the counterions Mg2+, Mn2+ and spermine4+. Gelation can occur at 0.04% Pf1 volume fraction, which is far below the isotropic–nematic transition of 0.7% for Pf1 in monovalent salt. Unlike strongly crosslinked gels of semiflexible polymers, which stiffen at large strains, Pf1 gels reversibly soften at high strain. The onset strain for softening depends on the strength of interaction between counterions and the polyelectrolyte. Simulations show that the elasticity of counterion crosslinked gels is consistent with a model of semiflexible filaments held by weak crosslinks that reversibly rupture at a critical force.

Graphical abstract: Gelation of semiflexible polyelectrolytes by multivalent counterions

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Publication details

The article was received on 30 Mar 2011, accepted on 25 May 2011 and first published on 23 Jun 2011

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C1SM05553D
Citation: Soft Matter, 2011,7, 7257-7261

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    Gelation of semiflexible polyelectrolytes by multivalent counterions

    E. M. Huisman, Q. Wen, Y. Wang, K. Cruz, G. Kitenbergs, K. Ērglis, A. Zeltinš, A. Cēbers and P. A. Janmey, Soft Matter, 2011, 7, 7257
    DOI: 10.1039/C1SM05553D

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