Galanti M., Fanelli D., Maritan A., Piazza F.
Europhysics Letters) (2015) 107 (2) - doi : 10.1209/0295-5075/107/20006
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The influence of crowding on the diffusion of tagged particles in a dense medium is investigated in the framework of a mean-field model, derived in the continuum limit from a microscopic stochastic process with exclusion. The probability distribution function of the tagged particles obeys to a nonlinear Smoluchowski equation, where the force and diffusion terms are determined self-consistently by the concentration of crowders in the medium. Transient sub-diffusive or super-diffusive behaviors are observed, depending on the selected initial conditions, that bridge normal diffusion regimes characterized by different diffusion coefficients. These anomalous crossovers originate from the microscopic competition for space and reflect the peculiar form of the non-homogeneous force term in the governing equation. Our results strongly warn against the overly simplistic identification of crowding with anomalous transport tout court .