Recent experiments show that networks of stiff biopolymers cross-linked by transient linker proteins exhibit complex stress relaxation, enabling network flow at long times. We present a model for the dynamics controlled by cross-links in such networks. We show that a single microscopic time scale for cross-linker unbinding leads to a broad spectrum of macroscopic relaxation times and a shear modulus G similar to omega(1/2) for low frequencies omega. This model quantitatively describes the measured rheology of actin networks cross-linked with alpha-actinin-4 over more than four decades in frequency.
We describe new developments for controlled fabrication of monodisperse non-spherical particles using droplet microfluidics. The high degree of control afforded by microfluidic technologies enables generation of single and multiple emulsion droplets. We show that these droplets can be transformed to non-spherical particles through further simple, spontaneous processing steps, including arrested coalescence, asymmetric polymer solidification, polymerization in microfluidic flow, and evaporation-driven clustering. These versatile and scalable microfluidic approaches can be used for producing large quantities of non-spherical particles that are monodisperse in both size and shape; these have great potential for commercial applications.
Neurofilaments are found in abundance in the cytoskeleton of neurons, where they act as an intracellular framework protecting the neuron from external stresses. To elucidate the nature of the mechanical properties that provide this protection, we measure the linear and nonlinear viscoelastic properties of networks of neurofilaments. These networks are soft solids that exhibit dramatic strain stiffening above critical strains of 30-70%. Surprisingly, divalent ions such as Mg(2+), Ca(2+), and Zn(2+) act as effective cross-linkers for neurofilament networks, controlling their solidlike elastic response. This behavior is comparable to that of actin-binding proteins in reconstituted filamentous actin. We show that the elasticity of neurofilament networks is entropic in origin and is consistent with a model for cross-linked semiflexible networks, which we use to quantify the cross-linking by divalent ions.
One of the hallmarks of biopolymer gels is their nonlinear viscoelastic response to stress, making the measurement of the mechanics of these gels very challenging. Various rheological protocols have been proposed for this; however, a thorough understanding of the techniques and their range of applicability as well as a careful comparison between these methods are still lacking. Using both strain ramp and differential prestress protocols, we investigate the nonlinear response of a variety of systems ranging from extracellular fibrin gels to intracellular F-actin solutions and F-actin cross-linked with permanent and physiological transient linkers. We find that the prestress and strain ramp results agree well for permanently cross-linked networks over two decades of strain rates, while the protocols only agree at high strain rates for more transient networks. Surprisingly, the nonlinear response measured with the prestress protocol is insensitive to creep; although a large applied steady stress can lead to significant flow, this has no significant effect on either the linear or nonlinear response of the system. A simple model is presented to provide insight into these observations.
We implement image correlation, a fundamental component of many real-time imaging and tracking systems, on a graphics processing unit (GPU) using NVI-DIA's CUDA platform. We use our code to analyze images of liquid-gas phase separation in a model colloid-polymer system, photographed in the absence of gravity aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Our GPU code is 4,000 times faster than simple MATLAB code performing the same calculation on a central processing unit (CPU), 130 times faster than simple C code, and 30 times faster than optimized C++ code using single-instruction, multiple-data (SIMD) extensions. The speed increases from these parallel algorithms enable us to analyze images downlinked from the ISS in a rapid fashion and send feedback to astronauts on orbit while the experiments are still being run.
Face-centered cubic single crystals of sigma = 1.55 mu m diameter hard-sphere silica colloidal particles were prepared by sedimentation onto (100) and (110) oriented templates. The crystals had a wide interface with the overlaying liquid that was parallel to the template. The location of the interface was determined by confocal microscopic location of the particles, followed by identification of the crystalline and liquid phases by a bond-orientation order parameter. Fluctuations in the height of the interface about its average position were recorded for several hundred configurations. The interfacial stiffness (gamma) over tilde was determined from the slope of the inverse squared Fourier components of the height profile vs the square of the wave number, according to the continuum capillary fluctuation method. The offset of the fit from the origin could quantitatively be accounted for by gravitational damping of the fluctuations. For the (100) interface, (gamma) over tilde = (1.3 +/- 0.3) k(B)T/sigma(2); for the (110) interface, (gamma) over tilde = (1.0 +/- 0.2)k(B)T/sigma(2). The interfacial stiffness of both interfaces was found to be isotropic in the plane. This is surprising for the (110), where crystallography predicts twofold symmetry. Sedimentation onto a (111) template yielded a randomly stacked hexagonal crystal with isotropic (gamma) over tilde = 0.66k(B)T/sigma(2). This value, however, is less reliable than the two others due to imperfections in the crystal.