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Issue 13, 2011
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Universal optimal working cycles of molecular motors

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Molecular motors capable of directional track-walking or rotation are abundant in living cells, and inspire the emerging field of artificial nanomotors. Some biomotors can convert 90% of free energy from chemical fuels into usable mechanical work, and the same motors still maintain a speed sufficient for cellular functions. This study exposed a new regime of universal optimization that amounts to a thermodynamically best working regime for molecular motors but is unfamiliar in macroscopic engines. For the ideal case of zero energy dissipation, the universally optimized working cycle for molecular motors is infinitely slow like Carnot cycle for heat engines. But when a small amount of energy dissipation reduces energy efficiency linearly from 100%, the speed is recovered exponentially due to Boltzmann's law. Experimental data on a major biomotor (kinesin) suggest that the regime of universal optimization has been largely approached in living cells, underpinning the extreme efficiency-speed trade-off in biomotors. The universal optimization and its practical approachability are unique thermodynamic advantages of molecular systems over macroscopic engines in facilitating motor functions. The findings have important implications for the natural evolution of biomotors as well as the development of artificial counterparts.

Graphical abstract: Universal optimal working cycles of molecular motors

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Article information

12 Oct 2010
27 Jan 2011
First published
01 Mar 2011

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2011,13, 6223-6233
Article type

Universal optimal working cycles of molecular motors

A. Efremov and Z. Wang, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2011, 13, 6223
DOI: 10.1039/C0CP02118K

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