Statistical and Biological Physics

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Biophysics meets Information Technology

Tobias Reichenbach, Thomas Franosch and Erwin Frey

Cars jamming in city centers or on highways belong to our every-day experience. In the present work, we theoretically explore such traffic phenomena occurring at a much smaller size, on the nanometer scale. At these tiny lengths, the fields of biological physics and information technology become increasingly intertwined. Still, different paradigms rule in these areas. Brownian motion governs biological systems, e.g., it drives molecular motors along parallel one-dimensional filaments in cells, serving as transport engines. On the other hand, quantum effects become visible in the field of electronic information processing. In fact, spintronics devices aim to exploit a quantum property of electrons, the spin, when passing them through nanowires. Surprisingly, as we show in our paper, the same basic model underlies both situations: intracellular molecular motor traffic on parallel lanes as well as hopping transport of electrons. In this way, an intimate relation of these in other respects so dissimilar processes is established. Exploring these systems' behavior, we find that it can be tuned by controlling particle fluxes at the boundaries. In particular, a jam may occur at a certain spatial position and, upon changing the fluxes at the boundaries, be driven in or out of the system. We believe that our findings may be fruitfully applied in the development of nanoscale control systems, within biological settings as well as electronic information technology. Finally, even vehicular traffic on multi-lane highways might be governed by the basic processes introduced in this work.