It is known that van der Waals interaction is an intermolecular forces. So is it possible that a long polymer chain interacting with itself via non-bonded interactions (such as van der Waals forces / electrostatic forces / hydrogen bonding)?

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ It can and does. Come to think of it, how can it not to interact? It is just the same atoms governed by the same laws. They don't have a built-in IFF system to tell them whether the other atom is from the same or different molecule. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 7:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why these are called intermolecular interactions, they're intramolecular as well, it's just that they're secondary to covalent bonds. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


You have a possible answer to your question in proteins, an example which includes some long polymer chains.

Intramolecular interactions - while not necessarily the driving force for formation of a collapsed protein globule (usually argued to be due to the hydrophobic effect, requiring intermolecular interactions) - are the basis for higher order structure in proteins and even some forms of RNA. I won't mention DNA since most commonly this forms a bimolecular double helix.

All of the interactions you mention may play a role in stabilizing a particular protein structure or "fold". A good and basic example of protein structure acquisition due to intramolecular interactions in proteins is polyalanine, which acquires alpha-helical secondary structure stabilized by intramolecular hydrogen bonds, typically between amide groups separated by 2 amino acids along the chain. Other types of structure stabilized by intramolecular interactions (H-bonds, usually) in polypeptides include other types of helices, beta sheets and various turns.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.