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The behavior of mesoscopic particles dissolved in a dilute solution of long, flexible, and nonadsorbing polymer chains is studied by field-theoretic methods. For spherical and cylindrical particles the solvation free energy for immersing a single particle in the solution is calculated explicitly. Important features are qualitatively different for self-avoiding polymer chains as compared with ideal chains. The results corroborate the validity of the Helfrich-type curvature expansion for general particle shapes and allow for quantitative experimental tests. For the effective interactions between a small sphere and a wall, between a thin rod and a wall, and between two small spheres, quantitative results are presented. A systematic approach for studying effective many-body interactions is provided. The common Asakura-Oosawa approximation modeling the polymer coils as hard spheres turns out to fail completely for small particles and still fails by about 10% for large particles.


©1999 American Physical Society. Original published version available at

Publication Title

Physical Review E





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