Memoryless control of boundary concentrations of diffusing particles

A. Singer, Z. Schuss, B. Nadler, R. S. Eisenberg

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15 Scopus citations


Flux between regions of different concentration occurs in nearly every device involving diffusion, whether an electrochemical cell, a bipolar transistor, or a protein channel in a biological membrane. Diffusion theory has calculated that flux since the time of Fick (1855), and the flux has been known to arise from the stochastic behavior of Brownian trajectories since the time of Einstein (1905), yet the mathematical description of the behavior of trajectories corresponding to different types of boundaries is not complete. We consider the trajectories of noninteracting particles diffusing in a finite region connecting two baths of fixed concentrations. Inside the region, the trajectories of diffusing particles are governed by the Langevin equation. To maintain average concentrations at the boundaries of the region at their values in the baths, a control mechanism is needed to set the boundary dynamics of the trajectories. Different control mechanisms are used in Langevin and Brownian simulations of such systems. We analyze models of controllers and derive equations for the time evolution and spatial distribution of particles inside the domain. Our analysis shows a distinct difference between the time evolution and the steady state concentrations. While the time evolution of the density is governed by an integral operator, the spatial distribution is governed by the familiar Fokker-Planck operator. The boundary conditions for the time dependent density depend on the model of the controller; however, this dependence disappears in the steady state, if the controller is of a renewal type. Renewal-type controllers, however, produce spurious boundary layers that can be catastrophic in simulations of charged particles, because even a tiny net charge can have global effects. The design of a nonrenewal controller that maintains concentrations of noninteracting particles without creating spurious boundary layers at the interface requires the solution of the time-dependent Fokker-Planck equation with absorption of outgoing trajectories and a source of ingoing trajectories on the boundary (the so called albedo problem).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8
Number of pages1
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical Physics, Plasmas, Fluids, and Related Interdisciplinary Topics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability


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