Mechanical basis for fibrillar bundle morphology†
Understanding the morphology of self-assembled fibrillar bundles and aggregates is relevant to a range of problems in molecular biology, supramolecular chemistry and materials science. Here, we propose a coarse-grained approach that averages over specific molecular details and yields an effective mechanical theory for the spatial complexity of self-assembling fibrillar structures that arises due to the competing effects of (the bending and twisting) elasticity of individual filaments and the adhesive interactions between them. We show that our theoretical framework accounting for this allows us to capture a number of diverse fibril morphologies observed in natural and synthetic systems, ranging from Filopodia to multi-walled carbon nanotubes, and leads to a phase diagram of possible fibril shapes. We also show how the extreme sensitivity of these morphologies can lead to spatially chaotic structures. Together, these results suggest a common mechanical basis for mesoscale fibril morphology as a function of the nanoscale mechanical properties of its filamentous constituents.