Colloidal dynamics over a tilted periodic potential: Nonequilibrium steady-state distributions

Xiao Guang Ma, Pik Yin Lai, Bruce J. Ackerson, Penger Tong

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11 Scopus citations


We report a systematic study of the effects of the external force F on the nonequilibrium steady-state (NESS) dynamics of the diffusing particles over a tilted periodic potential, in which detailed balance is broken due to the presence of a steady particle flux. A tilted two-layer colloidal system is constructed for this study. The periodic potential is provided by the bottom-layer colloidal spheres forming a fixed crystalline pattern on a glass substrate. The corrugated surface of the bottom colloidal crystal provides a gravitational potential field for the top-layer diffusing particles. By tilting the sample at an angle θ with respect to the vertical (gravity) direction, a tangential component of the gravitational force F is applied to the diffusing particles. The measured NESS probability density function Pss(x,y) of the particles is found to deviate from the equilibrium distribution P(x,y) to a different extent, depending on the driving or distance from equilibrium. The experimental results are compared with the exact solution of the one-dimensional (1D) Smoluchowski equation and the numerical results of the 2D Smoluchowski equation. From the obtained exact solution of the 1D Smoluchowski equation, we develop an analytical method to accurately extract the 1D potential U0(x) from the measured Pss(x). This work demonstrates that the tilted periodic potential provides a useful platform for the study of forced barrier-crossing dynamics beyond the Arrhenius-Kramers equation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number042306
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 11 Apr 2015


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