Flory theory of randomly branched polymers
Randomly branched polymer chains (or trees) are a classical subject of polymer physics with connections to the theory of magnetic systems, percolation and critical phenomena. More recently, the model has been reconsidered for RNA, supercoiled DNA and the crumpling of topologically-constrained polymers. While solvable in the ideal case, little is known exactly about randomly branched polymers with volume interactions. Flory theory provides a simple, unifying description for a wide range of branched systems, including isolated trees in good and θ-solvent, and tree melts. In particular, the approach provides a common framework for the description of randomly branched polymers with quenched connectivity and for randomly branching polymers with annealed connectivity. Here we review the Flory theory for interacting trees in the asymptotic limit of very large polymerization degree for good solvent, θ-solutions and melts, and report its predictions for annealed connectivity in θ-solvents. We compare the predictions of Flory theory for randomly branched polymers to a wide range of available analytical and numerical results and conclude that they are qualitatively excellent and quantitatively good in most cases.
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