It’s About Time: Non-equilibrium Information Processing in Molecular Complexes
In living organisms, information processing and signaling take diverse forms and are very fussy compared to boolean computers. Understanding the thermodynamics and kinetics of information processing at the fuzzy molecular level will guide the design of next-generation responsive materials. In this talk, I will focus on two specific examples of information processing in chemistry. (1) Non-equilibrium molecular automaton. We argue that molecular non-equilibrium hysteresis responses to environments can allow a molecule to recognize, memorize, and respond specifically to temporal patterns of a changing environment. Moreover, such molecules could be steered into far-from-equilibrium configurations if the environment is programmed to change according to specific protocols. We demonstrate this with a simple toy polymer model described by a novel dual-rate master equation. The molecule could function as an hourglass and an automaton, allowing one to design non-equilibrium protocols to steer the molecule into non-Boltzmann distributions that are dominated by any arbitrary configuration. (2) Noise-enabled multi-channel molecular sensors. In cellular sensing and especially ligand-receptor sensing models, thermal noise is considered an adversary. However, with a simple model, we show that the noise can enable a single ligand-receptor to simultaneously sense multiple channels of environmental information (e.g., simultaneously sensing concentration, temperature, and flow speed). Our results provide insights on designing novel microscopic sensors that operate in realistic and complex environments with a simple model.