Crowded solutions of single-chain nanoparticles under shear flow†
Single-chain nanoparticles (SCNPs) are ultrasoft objects obtained through purely intramolecular cross-linking of single polymer chains. By means of computer simulations with implemented hydrodynamic interactions, we investigate for the first time the effect of the shear flow on the structural and dynamic properties of SCNPs in semidilute and concentrated solutions. We characterize the dependence of several conformational and dynamic observables on the shear rate and the concentration, obtaining a set of power-law scaling laws. The concentration has a very different effect on the shear rate dependence of the former observables in SCNPs than in simple linear chains. Whereas for the latter the scaling behaviour is marginally dependent on the concentration, two clearly different scaling regimes are found for the SCNPs below and above the overlap concentration. At fixed shear rate SCNPs and linear chains also respond very differently to crowding. Whereas, at moderate and high Weissenberg numbers the linear chains swell, the SCNPs exhibit a complex non-monotonic behaviour. We suggest that these findings are inherently related to the topological interactions preventing concatenation of the SCNPs, which lead to less interpenetration than for linear chains, and to the limitation to stretching imposed by the permanent cross-links in the SCNPs, which itself limits the ways to spatially arrange in the shear flow.