Living polymers are well described by equilibrium statistical physics. Now I would like to consider a case were living polymers undergo fragmentation due to chaperones. I can think of a kinetic description, but can I still use equilibrium statistical mechanics?
Edit : I'd like to make the question a bit more general. Here are my interrogations:
When there is no chaperone activity, i.e. polymers polymerize and de polymerize freely, I am comfortable with equilibrium statistical mechanics because I can define a free energy, accounting for polymer binding energy, and entropy. See for example the Flory-Huggins theory. When it turns to chaperone activity, it seems to me obvious that non equilibrium physics is adapted to this case : it looks like a dynamical system, and I don't see how to define an energy in the context of equilibrium stat mech.
In an other hand, for the former case (no chaperone), I can also think of a kinetic model, with association and dissociation rates, leading, at equilibrium, to the same result as equilibrium physics.
So, what is fundamentally different between the two cases? Why one can be described by equilibrium physics, while the other can't (assuming it can't, that was actually my first question). In the case with chaperone activity, I see that energy is spent to break each polymer. In the dynamic description, this is not a problem, as long as we can define reaction rates, but if one wants to use equilibrium description, I think the crucial (and difficult) point is to consider this energy used by chaperones.
Thanks for any comment that could make me understand a bit more the boundaries between equilibrium and non equilibrium systems
After some reflections, I think I got what's make the difference. With chaperone activities, at time +infinite, you expect an equilibrium state, with a polymer size distribution. But this equilibrium is intrinsically dynamic : energy is continuously provided by the chaperones, breaking the polymers. This input of energy is clearly not described by equilibrium stat mech (see micro-canonical, canonical, grand canonical ensembles)
Any comment, reading suggestion is more than welcomed.