Edinburgh Research Explorer

Breakdown of the reaction-diffusion master equation with nonelementary rates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Open Access permissions



Original languageEnglish
Article number052135
Number of pages8
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2016


The chemical master equation (CME) is the exact mathematical formulation of chemical reactions occurring in a dilute and well-mixed volume. The reaction-diffusion master equation (RDME) is a stochastic description of reaction-diffusion processes on a spatial lattice, assuming well mixing only on the length scale of the lattice. It is clear that, for the sake of consistency, the solution of the RDME of a chemical system should converge to the solution of the CME of the same system in the limit of fast diffusion: Indeed, this has been tacitly assumed in most literature concerning the RDME. We show that, in the limit of fast diffusion, the RDME indeed converges to a master equation but not necessarily the CME. We introduce a class of propensity functions, such that if the RDME has propensities exclusively of this class, then the RDME converges to the CME of the same system, whereas if the RDME has propensities not in this class, then convergence is not guaranteed. These are revealed to be elementary and nonelementary propensities, respectively. We also show that independent of the type of propensity, the RDME converges to the CME in the simultaneous limit of fast diffusion and large volumes. We illustrate our results with some simple example systems and argue that the RDME cannot generally be an accurate description of systems with nonelementary rates.

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 25158521