Emma Hodges, B. M. Cooke, E. M. Sevick, Debra J. Searles, B. Dünweg and J. Ravi Prakash
Brownian dynamics simulations are used to study the detachment of a particle from a substrate. Although the model is simple and generic, we attempt to map its energy, length and time scales onto a specific experimental system, namely a bead that is weakly bound to a cell and then removed by an optical tweezer. The external driving force arises from the combined optical tweezer and substrate potentials, and thermal fluctuations are taken into account by a Brownian force. The Jarzynski equality and Crooks fluctuation theorem are applied to obtain the equilibrium free energy difference between the final and initial states. To this end, we sample non-equilibrium work trajectories for various tweezer pulling rates. We argue that this methodology should also be feasible experimentally for the envisioned system. Furthermore, we outline how the measurement of a whole free energy profile would allow the experimentalist to retrieve the unknown substrate potential by means of a suitable deconvolution. The influence of the pulling rate on the accuracy of the results is investigated, and umbrella sampling is used to obtain the equilibrium probability of particle escape for a variety of trap potentials.