Identification of two mechanisms for current production in a biharmonic flashing electron ratchet

Bryan Lau, Ofer Kedem, Mark A. Ratner, Emily A. Weiss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Ratchets rectify the motion of randomly moving particles, which are driven by isotropic sources of energy such as thermal and chemical energy, without applying a net, time-averaged force between source and drain. This paper describes the behavior of a damped electron, modeled by a quantum Lindblad master equation, within a flashing ratchet (a one-dimensional potential that oscillates between a flat surface and a periodic asymmetric surface). By examining the complete space of all biharmonic potential shapes and a large range of oscillation frequencies, two modes of ratchet operation, differentiated by their oscillation frequencies (relative to the rate of electron relaxation), are identified. Slow-oscillating, strong friction ratchets operate by a classical, overdamped mechanism. In fast-oscillating, weak friction ratchets, current is primarily produced when the frequency of the oscillating potential is resonant with the beating of the electron wave function in the potential well. The shape of the ratchet potential determines the direction of the current (and, in some cases, straightforwardly accounts for current reversals), but the maximum achievable current at any shape is controlled by the degree of friction applied to the electron.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number062128
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 20 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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