An introduction to ratchets in chemistry and biology

Bryan Lau, Ofer Kedem, James Schwabacher, Daniel Kwasnieski, Emily A. Weiss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


This article is an accessible introduction to ratchets and their potential uses. A ratchet can dramatically improve directional transport of classical or quantum particles in systems that are dominated by random diffusion. The key idea is that ratchets do not overcome poor conductivity with strong gradients, but rather use non-directional sources of energy like heat or chemical energy to power unidirectional transport, making the ratchet a Maxwell's demon. We introduce the ratchet concept and its inspiration from biology, discuss the terminology used in the field, and examine current progress and ideas in ratcheting electrons and classical particles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-318
Number of pages9
JournalMaterials Horizons
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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