Branched–linear polyion complexes investigated by Monte Carlo simulations†
Complexes formed by one charged and branched copolymer with an oppositely charged and linear polyion have been investigated by Monte Carlo simulations. A coarse-grained description has been used, in which the main chain of the branched polyion and the linear polyion possess the same absolute charge and charge density. The spatial extension and other structural properties, such as bond-angle orientational correlation function, asphericity, and scaling analysis of formed complexes, at varying branching density and side-chain length of the branched polyion, have been explored. In particular, the balance between cohesive Coulomb attraction and side-chain repulsions resulted in two main structures of a polyion complex. These structures are (i) a globular polyion core surrounded by side chains appearing at low branching density and (ii) an extended polyion core with side chains still being expelled at high branching density. The globule-to-extended transition occurred at a crossover branching density being practically independent of the side chain length.