Biophysics and Soft Matter Seminar

Beyond non-equilibrium steady-state — information and energy extraction from time-varying environments.

Zhiyue Lu, UNC Chemistry
Location: SSB 7172

Monday, 15 August 2022 02:30PM PDT


Living organisms can extract energy and information from their environment to sustain their survival and functionalities. However, such processes typically occur in time-varying environments and thus can not be described by equilibrium or non-equilibrium steady-state thermodynamics. This talk will showcase two molecular examples where a single molecule with a complicated energy landscape could either extract information or extract energy from a time-varying environment. In the first case, we demonstrate an energy landscape design rule to allow a single polymer molecule to recognize temporary patterns of external environmental conditions and store the trajectory information as meta-stable configurations. In the second case, we showcase that enzymes and catalysts, in general, can function as thermal engines, extracting heat from a temperature-oscillatory bath to invert otherwise spontaneous reactions. Moreover, we analytically obtain the cost function to find the optimal energy landscape to achieve such enzymatic thermal engines. These two stories demonstrate that complicated energy landscapes could allow molecules to carry out non-trivial functionalities that resemble life.