Inferring broken detailed balance in the absence of observable currents

Ignacio A. Martínez*, Gili Bisker, Jordan M. Horowitz, Juan M.R. Parrondo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identifying dissipation is essential for understanding the physical mechanisms underlying nonequilibrium processes. In living systems, for example, the dissipation is directly related to the hydrolysis of fuel molecules such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Nevertheless, detecting broken time-reversal symmetry, which is the hallmark of dissipative processes, remains a challenge in the absence of observable directed motion, flows, or fluxes. Furthermore, quantifying the entropy production in a complex system requires detailed information about its dynamics and internal degrees of freedom. Here we introduce a novel approach to detect time irreversibility and estimate the entropy production from time-series measurements, even in the absence of observable currents. We apply our technique to two different physical systems, namely, a partially hidden network and a molecular motor. Our method does not require complete information about the system dynamics and thus provides a new tool for studying nonequilibrium phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3542
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019


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