Topological patterning of interacting polymers
Published 2018-03-13Version 1
Polymer chains confined to a substrate show promise as a tool for nanoscale architecture, with applications ranging from anti-reflection coatings to oriented nanowires. However, the desired control of polymer orientation is hard to achieve at the nanoscale. In this Letter, we illustrate how a collective orientation can emerge among interacting polymer chains influenced by a spatially modulated substrate potential while experiencing strong thermal fluctuations. The resulting polymer orientation is tilted by an angle proportional to an integer topological invariant (the Chern number) and hence is robust against substrate disorder, as demonstrated by Langevin dynamics simulations. We establish the topological underpinning of the tilted polymeric pattern via a correspondence between equilibrium polymer configurations and Thouless pumping of a quantum Mott insulator in imaginary time. More generally, our strategy illustrates how to construct topologically protected gapped states in soft matter systems described by the diffusion equation with the addition of many-body interactions.