Stochastic disks that roll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We study a model of rolling particles subject to stochastic fluctuations, which may be relevant in systems of nano- or microscale particles where rolling is an approximation for strong static friction. We consider the simplest possible nontrivial system: a linear polymer of three disks constrained to remain in contact and immersed in an equilibrium heat bath so the internal angle of the polymer changes due to stochastic fluctuations. We compare two cases: one where the disks can slide relative to each other and the other where they are constrained to roll, like gears. Starting from the Langevin equations with arbitrary linear velocity constraints, we use formal homogenization theory to derive the overdamped equations that describe the process in configuration space only. The resulting dynamics have the formal structure of a Brownian motion on a Riemannian or sub-Riemannian manifold, depending on if the velocity constraints are holonomic or nonholonomic. We use this to compute the trimer's equilibrium distribution with and without the rolling constraints. Surprisingly, the two distributions are different. We suggest two possible interpretations of this result: either (i) dry friction (or other dissipative, nonequilibrium forces) changes basic thermodynamic quantities like the free energy of a system, a statement that could be tested experimentally, or (ii) as a lesson in modeling rolling or friction more generally as a velocity constraint when stochastic fluctuations are present. In the latter case, we speculate there could be a "roughness" entropy whose inclusion as an effective force could compensate the constraint and preserve classical Boltzmann statistics. Regardless of the interpretation, our calculation shows the word "rolling" must be used with care when stochastic fluctuations are present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number052112
JournalPhysical Review E
Volume94
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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