We study the diffusion of a tracer particle, which moves in continuum space between a lattice of excluded volume, immobile non-inert obstacles. In particular, we analyse how the strength of the tracer–obstacle interactions and the volume occupancy of the crowders alter the diffusive motion of the tracer. From the details of partitioning of the tracer diffusion modes between trapping states when bound to obstacles and bulk diffusion, we examine the degree of localisation of the tracer in the lattice of crowders. We study the properties of the tracer diffusion in terms of the ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements, the trapping time distributions, the amplitude variation of the time averaged mean squared displacements, and the non-Gaussianity parameter of the diffusing tracer. We conclude that tracer–obstacle adsorption and binding triggers a transient anomalous diffusion. From a very narrow spread of recorded individual time averaged trajectories we exclude continuous type random walk processes as the underlying physical model of the tracer diffusion in our system. For moderate tracer–crowder attraction the motion is found to be fully ergodic, while at stronger attraction strength a transient disparity between ensemble and time averaged mean squared displacements occurs. We also put our results into perspective with findings from experimental single-particle tracking and simulations of the diffusion of tagged tracers in dense crowded suspensions. Our results have implications for the diffusion, transport, and spreading of chemical components in highly crowded environments inside living cells and other structured liquids.

Anomalous diffusion is frequently described by scaled Brownian motion (SBM){,} a Gaussian process with a power-law time dependent diffusion coefficient. Its mean squared displacement is ?x2(t)? [similar{,} equals] 2K(t)t with K(t) [similar{,} equals] t[small alpha]-1 for 0 < [small alpha] < 2. SBM may provide a seemingly adequate description in the case of unbounded diffusion{,} for which its probability density function coincides with that of fractional Brownian motion. Here we show that free SBM is weakly non-ergodic but does not exhibit a significant amplitude scatter of the time averaged mean squared displacement. More severely{,} we demonstrate that under confinement{,} the dynamics encoded by SBM is fundamentally different from both fractional Brownian motion and continuous time random walks. SBM is highly non-stationary and cannot provide a physical description for particles in a thermalised stationary system. Our findings have direct impact on the modelling of single particle tracking experiments{,} in particular{,} under confinement inside cellular compartments or when optical tweezers tracking methods are used.

We consider diffusion processes with a spatially varying diffusivity giving rise to anomalous diffusion. Such heterogeneous diffusion processes are analysed for the cases of exponential, power-law, and logarithmic dependencies of the diffusion coefficient on the particle position. Combining analytical approaches with stochastic simulations, we show that the functional form of the space-dependent diffusion coefficient and the initial conditions of the diffusing particles are vital for their statistical and ergodic properties. In all three cases a weak ergodicity breaking between the time and ensemble averaged mean squared displacements is observed. We also demonstrate a population splitting of the time averaged traces into fast and slow diffusers for the case of exponential variation of the diffusivity as well as a particle trapping in the case of the logarithmic diffusivity. Our analysis is complemented by the quantitative study of the space coverage, the diffusive spreading of the probability density, as well as the survival probability.