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#### Institute

In the scenario of the narrow escape problem (NEP) a particle diffuses in a finite container and eventually leaves it through a small 'escape window' in the otherwise impermeable boundary, once it arrives to this window and crosses an entropic barrier at the entrance to it. This generic problem is mathematically identical to that of a diffusion-mediated reaction with a partially-reactive site on the container's boundary. Considerable knowledge is available on the dependence of the mean first-reaction time (FRT) on the pertinent parameters. We here go a distinct step further and derive the full FRT distribution for the NEP. We demonstrate that typical FRTs may be orders of magnitude shorter than the mean one, thus resulting in a strong defocusing of characteristic temporal scales. We unveil the geometry-control of the typical times, emphasising the role of the initial distance to the target as a decisive parameter. A crucial finding is the further FRT defocusing due to the barrier, necessitating repeated escape or reaction attempts interspersed with bulk excursions. These results add new perspectives and offer a broad comprehension of various features of the by-now classical NEP that are relevant for numerous biological and technological systems.

For both Lévy flight and Lévy walk search processes we analyse the full distribution of first-passage and first-hitting (or first-arrival) times. These are, respectively, the times when the particle moves across a point at some given distance from its initial position for the first time, or when it lands at a given point for the first time. For Lévy motions with their propensity for long relocation events and thus the possibility to jump across a given point in space without actually hitting it ('leapovers'), these two definitions lead to significantly different results. We study the first-passage and first-hitting time distributions as functions of the Lévy stable index, highlighting the different behaviour for the cases when the first absolute moment of the jump length distribution is finite or infinite. In particular we examine the limits of short and long times. Our results will find their application in the mathematical modelling of random search processes as well as computer algorithms.

Quorum-sensing bacteria in a growing colony of cells send out signalling molecules (so-called “autoinducers”) and themselves sense the autoinducer concentration in their vicinity. Once—due to increased local cell density inside a “cluster” of the growing colony—the concentration of autoinducers exceeds a threshold value, cells in this clusters get “induced” into a communal, multi-cell biofilm-forming mode in a cluster-wide burst event. We analyse quantitatively the influence of spatial disorder, the local heterogeneity of the spatial distribution of cells in the colony, and additional physical parameters such as the autoinducer signal range on the induction dynamics of the cell colony. Spatial inhomogeneity with higher local cell concentrations in clusters leads to earlier but more localised induction events, while homogeneous distributions lead to comparatively delayed but more concerted induction of the cell colony, and, thus, a behaviour close to the mean-field dynamics. We quantify the induction dynamics with quantifiers such as the time series of induction events and burst sizes, the grouping into induction families, and the mean autoinducer concentration levels. Consequences for different scenarios of biofilm growth are discussed, providing possible cues for biofilm control in both health care and biotechnology.

Many studies on biological and soft matter systems report the joint presence of a linear mean-squared displacement and a non-Gaussian probability density exhibiting, for instance, exponential or stretched-Gaussian tails. This phenomenon is ascribed to the heterogeneity of the medium and is captured by random parameter models such as ‘superstatistics’ or ‘diffusing diffusivity’. Independently, scientists working in the area of time series analysis and statistics have studied a class of discrete-time processes with similar properties, namely, random coefficient autoregressive models. In this work we try to reconcile these two approaches and thus provide a bridge between physical stochastic processes and autoregressive models.Westart from the basic Langevin equation of motion with time-varying damping or diffusion coefficients and establish the link to random coefficient autoregressive processes. By exploring that link we gain access to efficient statistical methods which can help to identify data exhibiting Brownian yet non-Gaussian diffusion.

Fractional Brownian motion (FBM) is a Gaussian stochastic process with stationary, long-time correlated increments and is frequently used to model anomalous diffusion processes. We study numerically FBM confined to a finite interval with reflecting boundary conditions. The probability density function of this reflected FBM at long times converges to a stationary distribution showing distinct deviations from the fully flat distribution of amplitude 1/L in an interval of length L found for reflected normal Brownian motion. While for superdiffusion, corresponding to a mean squared displacement (MSD) 〈X² (t)〉 ⋍ tᵅ with 1 < α < 2, the probability density function is lowered in the centre of the interval and rises towards the boundaries, for subdiffusion (0 < α < 1) this behaviour is reversed and the particle density is depleted close to the boundaries. The MSD in these cases at long times converges to a stationary value, which is, remarkably, monotonically increasing with the anomalous diffusion exponent α. Our a priori surprising results may have interesting consequences for the application of FBM for processes such as molecule or tracer diffusion in the confines of living biological cells or organelles, or other viscoelastic environments such as dense liquids in microfluidic chambers.