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Escape dynamics of active particles in multistable potentials

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posted on 2023-11-30, 21:07 authored by Andrei Militaru, Max Innerbichler, Martin Frimmer, Felix Tebbenjohanns, Lukas Novotny, Christoph Dellago
Rare transitions between long-lived metastable states underlie a great variety of physical, chemical and biological processes. Our quantitative understanding of reactive mechanisms has been driven forward by the insights of transition state theory. In particular, the dynamic framework developed by Kramers marks an outstanding milestone for the field. Its predictions, however, do not apply to systems driven by non-conservative forces or correlated noise histories. An important class of such systems are active particles, prominent in both biology and nanotechnology. Here, we trap a silica nanoparticle in a bistable potential. To emulate an active particle, we subject the particle to an engineered external force that mimics self-propulsion. We investigate the active particle's transition rate between metastable states as a function of friction and correlation time of the active force. Our experiments reveal the existence of an optimal correlation time where the transition rate is maximized. This novel \emph{active turnover} is reminiscent of the much celebrated Kramers turnover despite its fundamentally different origin. Our observations are quantitatively supported by a theoretical analysis of a one-dimensional model. Besides providing a deeper understanding of the escape dynamics of active particles in multistable potentials, our work establishes a new, versatile experimental platform to study particle dynamics in non-equilibrium settings.

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