Elastic behavior of a semiflexible polymer in 3D subject to compression and stretching forces
We elucidate the elastic behavior of a wormlike chain in 3D under compression and provide exact solutions for the experimentally accessible force–extension relation in terms of generalized spheroidal wave functions. In striking contrast to the classical Euler buckling instability, the force–extension relation of a clamped semiflexible polymer exhibits a smooth crossover from an almost stretched to a buckled configuration. In particular, the associated susceptibility, which measures the strength of the response of the polymer to the applied force, displays a prominent peak in the vicinity of the critical Euler buckling force. For increasing persistence length, the force–extension relation and the susceptibility of semiflexible polymers approach the behavior of a classical rod, whereas thermal fluctuations permit more flexible polymers to resist the applied force. Furthermore, we find that semiflexible polymers confined to 2D can oppose the applied force more strongly than in 3D.