Variational theory for a single polyelectrolyte chain revisited
Sektion Physik, Ludwig Maximilian University, Theresienstr. 37, 80333, Munich, Germany
Published online: 2 June 2004
We reconsider the electrostatic contribution to the persistence length, , of a single, infinitely long-charged polymer in the presence of screening. A Gaussian variational method is employed, taking as the only variational parameter. For weakly charged and flexible chains, crumpling occurs at small length scales because conformational fluctuations overcome electrostatic repulsion. The electrostatic persistence length depends on the square of the screening length, , as first argued by Khokhlov and Khachaturian by applying the Odijk-Skolnick-Fixman (OSF) theory to a string of crumpled blobs. We compare our approach to previous theoretical works (including variational formulations) and show that the result found by several authors comes from the improper use of a cutoff at small length scales. For highly charged and stiff chains, crumpling does not occur; here we recover the OSF result and validate the perturbative calculation for slightly bent rods.
© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica, and Springer-Verlag, 2004