Effects of self-avoidance on the packing of stiff rods on ellipsoids

Doron Grossman, Eytan Katzav

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using a statistical-mechanics approach, we study the effects of geometry and self-avoidance on the ordering of slender filaments inside nonisotropic containers, considering cortical microtubules in plant cells, and packing of genetic material inside viral capsids as concrete examples. Within a mean-field approximation, we show analytically how the shape of the container, together with self-avoidance, affects the ordering of the stiff rods. We find that the strength of the self-avoiding interaction plays a significant role in the preferred packing orientation, leading to a first-order transition for oblate cells, where the preferred orientation changes from azimuthal, along the equator, to a polar one, when self-avoidance is strong enough. While for prolate spheroids the ground state is always a polar-like order, strong self-avoidance results with a deep metastable state along the equator. We compute the critical surface describing the transition between azimuthal and polar ordering in the three-dimensional parameter space (persistence length, eccentricity, and self-avoidance) and show that the critical behavior of this system is in fact related to the butterfly catastrophe model. We calculate the pressure and shear stress applied by the filament on the surface, and the injection force needed to be applied on the filament in order to insert it into the volume. We compare these results to the pure mechanical study where self-avoidance is ignored, and discuss similarities and differences.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number054111
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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