Direct visualization of bottlebrush polymer conformations in the solid state

Jonathan M. Chan, Avram C. Kordon, Ruimeng Zhang, Muzhou Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Although the behavior of single chains is integral to the foundation of polymer science, a clear and convincing image of single chains in the solid state has still not been captured. For bottlebrush polymers, understanding their conformation in bulk materials is especially important because their extended backbones may explain their self-assembly and mechanical properties that have been attractive for many applications. Here, single-bottlebrush chains are visualized using single-molecule localization microscopy to study their conformations in a polymer melt composed of linear polymers. By observing bottlebrush polymers with different side chain lengths and grafting densities, we observe the relationship between molecular architecture and conformation. We show that bottlebrushes are significantly more rigid in the solid state than previously measured in solution, and the scaling relationships between persistence length and side chain length deviate from those predicted by theory and simulation. We discuss these discrepancies using mechanisms inspired by polymer-grafted nanoparticles, a conceptually similar system. Our work provides a platform for visualizing single-polymer chains in an environment made up entirely of other polymers, which could answer a number of open questions in polymer science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2109534118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
StatePublished - Oct 5 2021


  • Bottlebrush polymers
  • Single molecules
  • Super-resolution microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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