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Keywords:

  • atomistic calculations;
  • molecular dynamics;
  • molecular motors;
  • nonequilibrium processes;
  • thermodynamics

Abstract

A general framework is provided that makes possible the estimation of time-dependent properties of a stochastic system moving far from equilibrium. The process is investigated and discussed in general terms of nonequilibrium thermodynamics. The approach is simple and can be exploited to gain insight into the dynamics of any molecular-level machine. As a case study, the dynamics of an artificial molecular rotary motor, similar to the inversion of a helix, which drives the motor from a metastable state to equilibrium, are examined. The energy path that the motor walks was obtained from the results of atomistic calculations. The motor undergoes unidirectional rotation and its entropy, internal energy, free energy, and net exerted force are given as a function of time, starting from the solution of Smoluchowski’s equation. The rather low value of the organization index, that is, the ratio of the work done by the particle against friction during the unidirectional motion per available free energy, reveals that the motion is mainly subject to randomness, and the amount of energy converted to heat due to the directional motion is very small.