Probability distribution of Brownian motion in periodic potentials Academic Article uri icon


  • We calculate the probability distribution function (PDF) of an overdamped Brownian particle moving in a periodic potential energy landscape $U(x)$. The PDF is found by solving the corresponding Smoluchowski diffusion equation. We derive the solution for any periodic even function $U(x)$, and demonstrate that it is asymptotically (at large time $t$) correct up to terms decaying faster than $\sim t^{-3/2}$. As part of the derivation, we also recover the Lifson-Jackson formula for the effective diffusion coefficient of the dynamics. The derived solution exhibits agreement with Langevin dynamics simulations when (i) the periodic length is much larger than the ballistic length of the dynamics, and (ii) when the potential barrier $\Delta U=\max(U(x))-\min(U(x))$ is not much larger than the thermal energy $k_BT$.

publication date

  • January 1, 2018