Department of Physics Papers

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When placed in a crowded environment, a semiflexible tube is forced to fold so as to make a more compact shape. One compact shape that often arises in nature is the tight helix, especially when the tube thickness is of comparable size to the tube length. In this paper we use an excluded volume effect to model the effects of crowding. This gives us a measure of compactness for configurations of the tube, which we use to look at structures of the semiflexible tube that minimize the excluded volume. We focus most of our attention on the helix and which helical geometries are most compact. We found helices of specific pitch to radius ratio 2.512 to be optimally compact. This is the same geometry that minimizes the global curvature of the curve defining the tube. We further investigate the effects of adding a bending energy or multiple tubes to begin to explore the more complete space of possible geometries a tube could form.


Y. Snir and R.D. Kamien. (2007). Helical tubes in crowded environmnets. Physical Review E 75, 051114.

© 2007 The American Physical Society

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Date Posted: 18 May 2011

This document has been peer reviewed.