PMID: 24483787Feb 4, 2014Paper

Geometry-induced superdiffusion in driven crowded systems

Physical Review Letters
O BénichouRaphaël Voituriez


Recent molecular dynamics simulations of glass-forming liquids revealed superdiffusive fluctuations associated with the position of a tracer particle (TP) driven by an external force. Such an anomalous response, whose mechanism remains elusive, has been observed up to now only in systems close to their glass transition, suggesting that this could be one of its hallmarks. Here, we show that the presence of superdiffusion is in actual fact much more general, provided that the system is crowded and geometrically confined. We present and solve analytically a minimal model consisting of a driven TP in a dense, crowded medium in which the motion of particles is mediated by the diffusion of packing defects, called vacancies. For such nonglass-forming systems, our analysis predicts a long-lived superdiffusion which ultimately crosses over to giant diffusive behavior. We find that this trait is present in confined geometries, for example long capillaries and stripes, and emerges as a universal response of crowded environments to an external force. These findings are confirmed by numerical simulations of systems as varied as lattice gases, dense liquids, and granular fluids.


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