From the adiabatic piston to macroscopic motion induced by fluctuations
The controversial problem of the evolution of an isolated system with an internal adiabatic wall is investigated with the use of a simple microscopic model and the Boltzmann equation. In the case of two infinite volume one-dimensional ideal fluids separated by a piston whose mass is equal to the mass of the fluid particles we obtain a rigorous explicit stationary non-equilibrium solution of the Boltzmann equation. It is shown that at equal pressures on both sides of the piston, the temperature difference induces a non-zero average velocity, oriented toward the region of higher temperature. It thus turns out that despite the absence of macroscopic forces the asymmetry of fluctuations results in a systematic macroscopic motion. This remarkable effect is analogous to the dynamics of stochastic ratchets, where fluctuations conspire with spatial anisotropy to generate directed motion. However, a different mechanism is involved here. The relevance of the discovered motion to the adiabatic piston problem is discussed.
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Volume (Year): 265 (1999)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
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