American Chemical Society
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Normal and Anomalous Diffusion: An Analytical Study Based on Quantum Collision Dynamics and Boltzmann Transport Theory

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posted on 2016-08-23, 00:00 authored by Sathiya Mahakrishnan, Subrata Chakraborty, Amrendra Vijay
Diffusion, an emergent nonequilibrium transport phenomenon, is a nontrivial manifestation of the correlation between the microscopic dynamics of individual molecules and their statistical behavior observed in experiments. We present a thorough investigation of this viewpoint using the mathematical tools of quantum scattering, within the framework of Boltzmann transport theory. In particular, we ask: (a) How and when does a normal diffusive transport become anomalous? (b) What physical attribute of the system is conceptually useful to faithfully rationalize large variations in the coefficient of normal diffusion, observed particularly within the dynamical environment of biological cells? To characterize the diffusive transport, we introduce, analogous to continuous phase transitions, the curvature of the mean square displacement as an order parameter and use the notion of quantum scattering length, which measures the effective interactions between the diffusing molecules and the surrounding, to define a tuning variable, η. We show that the curvature signature conveniently differentiates the normal diffusion regime from the superdiffusion and subdiffusion regimes and the critical point, η = ηc, unambiguously determines the coefficient of normal diffusion. To solve the Boltzmann equation analytically, we use a quantum mechanical expression for the scattering amplitude in the Boltzmann collision term and obtain a general expression for the effective linear collision operator, useful for a variety of transport studies. We also demonstrate that the scattering length is a useful dynamical characteristic to rationalize experimental observations on diffusive transport in complex systems. We assess the numerical accuracy of the present work with representative experimental results on diffusion processes in biological systems. Furthermore, we advance the idea of temperature-dependent effective voltage (of the order of 1 μV or less in a biological environment, for example) as a dynamical cause of the perpetual molecular movement, which eventually manifests as an ordered motion, called the diffusion.