Minimal model for short-time diffusion in periodic potentials.


We investigate the dynamics of a single, overdamped colloidal particle, which is driven by a constant force through a one-dimensional periodic potential. We focus on systems with large barrier heights where the lowest-order cumulants of the density field, that is, average position and the mean-squared displacement, show nontrivial (nondiffusive) short-time behavior characterized by the appearance of plateaus. We demonstrate that this "cage-like" dynamics can be well described by a discretized master equation model involving two states (related to two positions) within each potential valley. Nontrivial predictions of our approach include analytic expressions for the plateau heights and an estimate of the "de-caging time" obtained from the study of deviations from Gaussian behavior. The simplicity of our approach means that it offers a minimal model to describe the short-time behavior of systems with hindered dynamics.


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