Efficient Algorithm for the Topological Characterization of Worm-like and Branched Micelle Structures from Simulations

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Many surfactant-based formulations are utilized in industry as they produce desirable viscoelastic properties at low concentrations. These properties are due to the presence of worm-like micelles (WLMs), and as a result, understanding the processes that lead to WLM formation is of significant interest. Various experimental techniques have been applied with some success to this problem but can encounter issues probing key microscopic characteristics or the specific regimes of interest. The complementary use of computer simulations could provide an alternate route to accessing their structural and dynamic behavior. However, few computational methods exist for measuring key characteristics of WLMs formed in particle simulations. Further, their mathematical formulations are challenged by WLMs with sharp curvature profiles or density fluctuations along the backbone. Here, we present a new topological algorithm for identifying and characterizing WLMs in particle simulations, which has desirable mathematical properties that address shortcomings in previous techniques. We apply the algorithm to the case of sodium dodecyl sulfate micelles to demonstrate how it can be used to construct a comprehensive topological characterization of the observed structures.