Packets of Diffusing Particles Exhibit Universal Exponential Tails

Eli Barkai, Stanislav Burov

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72 Scopus citations


Brownian motion is a Gaussian process described by the central limit theorem. However, exponential decays of the positional probability density function P(X,t) of packets of spreading random walkers, were observed in numerous situations that include glasses, live cells, and bacteria suspensions. We show that such exponential behavior is generally valid in a large class of problems of transport in random media. By extending the large deviations approach for a continuous time random walk, we uncover a general universal behavior for the decay of the density. It is found that fluctuations in the number of steps of the random walker, performed at finite time, lead to exponential decay (with logarithmic corrections) of P(X,t). This universal behavior also holds for short times, a fact that makes experimental observations readily achievable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number060603
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - 14 Feb 2020

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