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Diffusion of Nanoparticles with Activated Hopping in Crowded Polymer Solutions

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journal contribution
posted on 01.04.2020, 21:03 by Chundong Xue, Xinghua Shi, Yu Tian, Xu Zheng, Guoqing Hu
A long-distance hop of diffusive nanoparticles (NPs) in crowded environments was commonly considered unlikely, and its characteristics remain unclear. In this work, we experimentally identify the occurrence of the intermittent hops of large NPs in crowded entangled poly­(ethylene oxide) (PEO) solutions, which are attributed to thermally induced activated hopping. We show that the diffusion of NPs in crowded solutions is considered as a superposition of the activated hopping and the reptation of the polymer solution. Such activated hopping becomes significant when either the PEO molecular weight is large enough or the NP size is relatively small. We reveal that the time-dependent non-Gaussianity of the NP diffusion is determined by the competition of the short-time relaxation of a polymer entanglement strand, the activated hopping, and the long-time reptation. We propose an exponential scaling law τhope ∼ exp­(d/dt) to characterize the hopping time scale, suggesting a linear dependence of the activated hopping energy barrier on the dimensionless NP size. The activated hopping motion can only be observed between the onset time scale of the short-time relaxation of local entanglement strands and the termination time scale of the long-time relaxation. Our findings on activated hopping provide new insights into long-distance transportation of NPs in crowded biological environments, which is essential to the delivery and targeting of nanomedicines.