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Anomalous, non-Gaussian tracer diffusion in crowded two-dimensional environments

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Original languageEnglish
Article number013027
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


A topic of intense current investigation pursues the question of how the highly crowded environment of biological cells affects the dynamic properties of passively diffusing particles. Motivated by recent experiments we report results of extensive simulations of the motion of a finite sized tracer particle in a heterogeneously crowded environment made up of quenched distributions of monodisperse crowders of varying sizes in finite circular two-dimensional domains. For given spatial distributions of monodisperse crowders we demonstrate how anomalous diffusion with strongly non-Gaussian features arises in this model system. We investigate both biologically relevant situations of particles released either at the surface of an inner domain or at the outer boundary, exhibiting distinctly different features of the observed anomalous diffusion for heterogeneous distributions of crowders. Specifically we reveal an asymmetric spreading of tracers even at moderate crowding. In addition to the mean squared displacement (MSD) and local diffusion exponent we investigate the magnitude and the amplitude scatter of the time averaged MSD of individual tracer trajectories, the non-Gaussianity parameter, and the van Hove correlation function. We also quantify how the average tracer diffusivity varies with the position in the domain with a heterogeneous radial distribution of crowders and examine the behaviour of the survival probability and the dynamics of the tracer survival probability. Inter alia, the systems we investigate are related to the passive transport of lipid molecules and proteins in two-dimensional crowded membranes or the motion in colloidal solutions or emulsions in effectively two-dimensional geometries, as well as inside supercrowded, surface adhered cells.

ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • anomalous diffusion, crowded fluids, stochastic processes

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Field of science, Statistics Finland

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