We introduce a new, topologically-based method for coarse-graining polymer chains. Based on the wavelet transform, a multiresolution data analysis technique, this method assigns a cluster of particles to a coarse-grained bead located at the center of mass of the cluster, thereby reducing the complexity of the problem by dividing the simulation into several stages, each with a fraction of the number of beads as the overall chain. At each stage, we compute the distributions of coarse-grained internal coordinates as well as potential functions required for subsequent simulation stages. In this paper, we present the basic algorithm, and apply it to freely jointed chains; the companion paper describes its applications to self-avoiding chains.
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