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J Theor Biol. 2001 May 21;210(2):141-50.

Direction reversal of fluctuation-induced biased Brownian motion on distorted ratchets.

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Mathematical Research Branch, National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20892-2690, USA.


The biased movement of Brownian particles on a fluctuating two-state periodic potential made of identical distorted ratchets is studied. The purpose is to investigate how the direction of the particle movement is related to the asymmetry of the potential. In general, distorting one of the two linear arms of a regular symmetric ratchet (with equal arm lengths) can create a driving force for the Brownian particle to execute biased movement. The direction of the induced biased movement depends on the type of the distortion. It has been found that if one linear arm is kinked into two linear sub-arms, the direction of the movement can be either positive or negative depending on the frequency of the fluctuation and the location and the degree of the kink. In contrast, if one arm of the symmetric ratchet is replaced by a continuous nonlinear sinusoidal function, the movement is always unidirectional. Thus, for the latter case to generate the direction reversal phenomenon, the ratchets have to have an additional asymmetry. We also have found that two potentials with different distorted ratchets can generate identical fluxes if the distortions are polar symmetric about the mid-point of the arm(s) of the basic linear two-arm ratchet. The results are useful for designing experimental apparatuses for the separation of protein particles based on their sizes and charges and the viscosity of the medium.

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