Polymer physics, served al dente


an pasta be used to illustrate one of the last big mysteries in polymer physics? Two physicists from the University of Warwick (Coventry, UK) think so. Davide Michieletto and Matthew S Turner have created a ring-shaped pasta, which they have called anelloni (Italian for ring), to demonstrate the complexity of ring-shaped polymers, reports Phys.org. Michieletto explains the concept in a video produced by Physics World. Click on the image below to watch the video.

When cooked and tossed together, the ring-shaped pasta gets so tangled up that it becomes difficult to separate and eat. This culinary conundrum reflects how "ring-shaped polymers become massively intertwined with each other," writes Phys.org. It's an extension of the computer simulations of ring-shaped polymers that Michieletto and Turner work on at the university. They aim to show that if molecules are sufficiently long, they will get tangled up to such a degree that they would appear to be frozen in place. Michieletto and Turner hope to turn this concept into the discovery of a new state of matter, which they are calling topological glass.

"For a topological glass made from ring-shaped polymers, the motion of the individual molecules would slow down not just with temperature but also ring length, which Michieletto and Turner believe could inspire novel materials with applications that we cannot yet imagine," writes Phys.org.

And what about the pasta itself? Stick to spaghetti, say the physicists. "The Italians were right all along. Make yourself a bowl of anelloni and it's likely to have gone cold by the time you've pulled all the rings apart and struggled your way to the messy end."

Plastics Today