Indexed on: 25 Oct '13Published on: 25 Oct '13Published in: The European Physical Journal E
We study the frequency-dependent dielectric response of flexible polyelectrolyte chains in aqueous salt-free dilute solution as a function of polymer concentration and length by means of Brownian dynamics simulations including hydrodynamic interactions. We show that condensed and uncondensed counter ions are characterized by different dielectric response spectra and thus confirm long-held scaling assumptions used for the interpretation of experimental data. In addition to the well-known relaxation modes of condensed and uncondensed counter ions we observe for a single polyelectrolyte chain, we find in many-chain simulations a novel spectral feature at low frequencies that essentially corresponds to an exchange of counter ions between neighboring polyelectrolytes. Our results suggest that the experimental low-frequency dielectric mode might not be due to condensed counter ions, as is commonly assumed, but rather due to a collective many-chain process. This could resolve a long-standing puzzle in the comparison of experimental results and scaling predictions.