Single-molecule imaging reveals topological isomer-dependent diffusion by 4-armed star and dicyclic 8-shaped polymers†
Diffusion dynamics of topological isomers of polymer molecules was investigated at the single-molecular level in the melt state by employing the fluorophore-incorporated 4-armed star and the corresponding doubly-cyclized, 8-shaped poly(THF) chains. While the single-molecule fluorescence imaging experiment revealed that the diffusion of the 4-armed star polymer was described by a single Gaussian distribution, the diffusion of the 8-shaped polymer exhibited a double Gaussian distribution behaviour. We reasoned that the two 8-shaped polymeric isomers have distinct diffusion modes in the melt state, although ensemble-averaged experimental methods cannot detect differences in the overall conformational state of the isomers. The single-molecule experiments suggested that one of the 8-shaped polymeric isomers, having the horizontally oriented form, causes an efficient threading with the linear matrix chains which leads to slower diffusion compared with the corresponding 4-armed star polymer, while the other 8-shaped polymeric isomer, having the vertically oriented form, displayed faster diffusion by the suppression of effective threading with the linear matrix chains due to its contracted chain conformation.