Statistical mechanics of a single active slider on a fluctuating interface

Francesco Cagnetta, Martin R. Evans, Davide Marenduzzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the statistical mechanics of a single active slider on a fluctuating interface, by means of numerical simulations and theoretical arguments. The slider, which moves by definition towards the interface minima, is active as it also stimulates growth of the interface. Even though such a particle has no counterpart in thermodynamic systems, active sliders may provide a simple model for ATP-dependent membrane proteins that activate cytoskeletal growth. We find a wide range of dynamical regimes according to the ratio between the timescales associated with the slider motion and the interface relaxation. If the interface dynamics is slow, the slider behaves like a random walker in a random envinronment which, furthermore, is able to escape environmental troughs by making them grow. This results in different dynamic exponens to the interface and the particle: the former behaves as an Edward-Wilkinson surface with dynamic exponent 2 whereas the latter has dynamic exponent 3/2. When the interface is fast, we get sustained ballistic motion with the particle surfing a membrane wave created by itself. However, if the interface relaxes immediately (i.e., it is infinitely fast), particle motion becomes symmetric and goes back to diffusive. Due to such a rich phenomenology, we propose the active slider as a toy model of fundamental interest in the field of active membranes and, generally, whenever the system constituent can alter the environment by spending energy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalPhysical Review E
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2019


  • cond-mat.stat-mech


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