Rings in random environments: sensing disorder through topology
In this paper we study the role of topology in DNA gel electrophoresis experiments via molecular dynamics simulations. The gel is modelled as a 3D array of obstacles from which half edges are removed at random with probability p, thereby generating a disordered environment. Changes in the microscopic structure of the gel are captured by measuring the electrophoretic mobility of ring polymers moving through the medium, while their linear counterparts provide a control system as we show they are insensitive to these changes. We show that ring polymers provide a novel, non-invasive way of exploiting topology to sense microscopic disorder. Finally, we compare the results from the simulations with an analytical model for the non-equilibrium differential mobility, and find a striking agreement between simulation and theory.