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- Institut für Physik und Astronomie (32) (remove)

Based on extensive Monte Carlo simulations and analytical considerations we study the electrostatically driven adsorption of flexible polyelectrolyte chains onto charged Janus nanospheres. These net-neutral colloids are composed of two equally but oppositely charged hemispheres. The critical binding conditions for polyelectrolyte chains are analysed as function of the radius of the Janus particle and its surface charge density, as well as the salt concentration in the ambient solution. Specifically for the adsorption of finite-length polyelectrolyte chains onto Janus nanoparticles, we demonstrate that the critical adsorption conditions drastically differ when the size of the Janus particle or the screening length of the electrolyte are varied. We compare the scaling laws obtained for the adsorption–desorption threshold to the known results for uniformly charged spherical particles, observing significant disparities. We also contrast the changes to the polyelectrolyte chain conformations close to the surface of the Janus nanoparticles as compared to those for simple spherical particles. Finally, we discuss experimentally relevant physico-chemical systems for which our simulations results may become important. In particular, we observe similar trends with polyelectrolyte complexation with oppositely but heterogeneously charged proteins.

We study the parameter sensitivity of hetero-polymeric DNA within the purview of DNA breathing dynamics. The degree of correlation between the mean bubble size and the model parameters is estimated for this purpose for three different DNA sequences. The analysis leads us to a better understanding of the sequence dependent nature of the breathing dynamics of hetero-polymeric DNA. Out of the 14 model parameters for DNA stability in the statistical Poland-Scheraga approach, the hydrogen bond interaction epsilon(hb)(AT) for an AT base pair and the ring factor. turn out to be the most sensitive parameters. In addition, the stacking interaction epsilon(st)(TA-TA) for an TA-TA nearest neighbor pair of base-pairs is found to be the most sensitive one among all stacking interactions. Moreover, we also establish that the nature of stacking interaction has a deciding effect on the DNA breathing dynamics, not the number of times a particular stacking interaction appears in a sequence. We show that the sensitivity analysis can be used as an effective measure to guide a stochastic optimization technique to find the kinetic rate constants related to the dynamics as opposed to the case where the rate constants are measured using the conventional unbiased way of optimization.

The rapid worldwide spread of severe viral infections, often involving novel mutations of viruses, poses major challenges to our health-care systems. This means that tools that can efficiently and specifically diagnose viruses are much needed. To be relevant for broad applications in local health-care centers, such tools should be relatively cheap and easy to use. In this paper, we discuss the biophysical potential for the macroscopic detection of viruses based on the induction of a mechanical stress in a bundle of prestretched DNA molecules upon binding of viruses to the DNA. We show that the affinity of the DNA to the charged virus surface induces a local melting of the double helix into two single-stranded DNA. This process effects a mechanical stress along the DNA chains leading to an overall contraction of the DNA. Our results suggest that when such DNA bundles are incorporated in a supporting matrix such as a responsive hydrogel, the presence of viruses may indeed lead to a significant, macroscopic mechanical deformation of the matrix. We discuss the biophysical basis for this effect and characterize the physical properties of the associated DNA melting transition. In particular, we reveal several scaling relations between the relevant physical parameters of the system. We promote this DNA-based assay as a possible tool for efficient and specific virus screening.

Aging, the dependence of the dynamics of a physical process on the time t(a) since its original preparation, is observed in systems ranging from the motion of charge carriers in amorphous semiconductors over the blinking dynamics of quantum dots to the tracer dispersion in living biological cells. Here we study the effects of aging on one of the most fundamental properties of a stochastic process, the first-passage dynamics. We find that for an aging continuous time random walk process, the scaling exponent of the density of first-passage times changes twice as the aging progresses and reveals an intermediate scaling regime. The first-passage dynamics depends on t(a) differently for intermediate and strong aging. Similar crossovers are obtained for the first-passage dynamics for a confined and driven particle. Comparison to the motion of an aged particle in the quenched trap model with a bias shows excellent agreement with our analytical findings. Our results demonstrate how first-passage measurements can be used to unravel the age t(a) of a physical system.

We study ultraslow diffusion processes with logarithmic mean squared displacement (MSD) < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to log(gamma)t. Comparison of annealed (renewal) continuous time random walks (CTRWs) with logarithmic waiting time distribution psi(tau) similar or equal to 1/(tau log(1+gamma)tau) and Sinai diffusion in quenched random landscapes reveals striking similarities, despite the great differences in their physical nature. In particular, they exhibit a weakly non-ergodic disparity of the time-averaged and ensemble-averaged MSDs. Remarkably, for the CTRW we observe that the fluctuations of time averages become universal, with an exponential suppression of mobile trajectories. We discuss the fundamental connection between the Golosov localization effect and non-ergodicity in the sense of the disparity between ensemble-averaged MSD and time-averaged MSD.

Recent experiments reveal both passive subdiffusion of various nanoparticles and anomalous active transport of such particles by molecular motors in the molecularly crowded environment of living biological cells. Passive and active microrheology reveals that the origin of this anomalous dynamics is due to the viscoelasticity of the intracellular fluid. How do molecular motors perform in such a highly viscous, dissipative environment? Can we explain the observed co-existence of the anomalous transport of relatively large particles of 100 to 500 nm in size by kinesin motors with the normal transport of smaller particles by the same molecular motors? What is the efficiency of molecular motors in the anomalous transport regime? Here we answer these seemingly conflicting questions and consistently explain experimental findings in a generalization of the well-known continuous diffusion model for molecular motors with two conformational states in which viscoelastic effects are included.

Based on extensive Brownian dynamics simulations we study the thermal motion of a tracer bead in a cross-linked, flexible gel in the limit when the tracer particle size is comparable to or even larger than the equilibrium mesh size of the gel. The analysis of long individual trajectories of the tracer demonstrates the existence of pronounced transient anomalous diffusion. From the time averaged mean squared displacement and the time averaged van Hove correlation functions we elucidate the many-body origin of the non-Brownian tracer bead dynamics. Our results shed new light onto the ongoing debate over the physical origin of steric tracer interactions with structured environments.

Based on the space-fractional Fokker-Planck equation with a delta-sink term, we study the efficiency of random search processes based on Levy flights with power-law distributed jump lengths in the presence of an external drift, for instance, an underwater current, an airflow, or simply the preference of the searcher based on prior experience. While Levy flights turn out to be efficient search processes when the target is upstream relative to the starting point, in the downstream scenario, regular Brownian motion turns out to be advantageous. This is caused by the occurrence of leapovers of Levy flights, due to which Levy flights typically overshoot a point or small interval. Studying the solution of the fractional Fokker-Planck equation, we establish criteria when the combination of the external stream and the initial distance between the starting point and the target favours Levy flights over the regular Brownian search. Contrary to the common belief that Levy flights with a Levy index alpha = 1 (i.e. Cauchy flights) are optimal for sparse targets, we find that the optimal value for alpha may range in the entire interval (1, 2) and explicitly include Brownian motion as the most efficient search strategy overall.

Low-dimensional, many-body systems are often characterized by ultraslow dynamics. We study a labelled particle in a generic system of identical particles with hard-core interactions in a strongly disordered environment. The disorder is manifested through intermittent motion with scale-free sticking times at the single particle level. While for a non-interacting particle we find anomalous diffusion of the power-law form < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to t(alpha) of the mean squared displacement with 0 < alpha < 1, we demonstrate here that the combination of the disordered environment with the many-body interactions leads to an ultraslow, logarithmic dynamics < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to log(1/2)t with a universal 1/2 exponent. Even when a characteristic sticking time exists but the fluctuations of sticking times diverge we observe the mean squared displacement < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to t(gamma) with 0 < gamma < 1/2, that is slower than the famed Harris law < x(2)(t)> similar or equal to t(1/2) without disorder. We rationalize the results in terms of a subordination to a counting process, in which each transition is dominated by the forward waiting time of an ageing continuous time process.

Probably no other field of statistical physics at the borderline of soft matter and biological physics has caused such a flurry of papers as polymer translocation since the 1994 landmark paper by Bezrukov, Vodyanoy, and Parsegian and the study of Kasianowicz in 1996. Experiments, simulations, and theoretical approaches are still contributing novel insights to date, while no universal consensus on the statistical understanding of polymer translocation has been reached. We here collect the published results, in particular, the famous-infamous debate on the scaling exponents governing the translocation process. We put these results into perspective and discuss where the field is going. In particular, we argue that the phenomenon of polymer translocation is non-universal and highly sensitive to the exact specifications of the models and experiments used towards its analysis.