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Soft Matter and Biological Physics

Eur. Phys. J. E 8, 539-547 (2002)
DOI: 10.1140/epje/i2002-10044-x

Networks of helix-forming polymers

S. Kutter and E.M. Terentjev

Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK

(Received 5 July 2002 Online publication 16 October 2002)

Biological molecules can form hydrogen bonds between nearby residues, leading to helical secondary structures. The associated reduction of configurational entropy leads to a temperature dependence of this effect: the helix-coil transition . Since the formation of helices implies a dramatic shortening of the polymer dimensions, an externally imposed end-to-end distance R affects the equilibrium helical fraction of the polymer and the resulting force-extension curves show anomalous plateau regimes. In this article, we investigate the behaviour of a cross link ed network of such helicogenic molecules, particularly focusing on the coupling of the (average) helical content present in a network to the externally imposed strain. We show that both elongation and compression can lead to an increase in helical domains under appropriate conditions.

78.20.Ek - Optical activity.
83.80.Va - Elastomeric polymers.
87.15.La - Mechanical properties.

© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica, Springer-Verlag 2002