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Quasi-steady state analysis of two-dimensional random intermittent search processes

By P. C. Bressloff and J. M. Newby


We use perturbation methods to analyze a two-dimensional random intermittent search process, in which a searcher alternates between a diffusive search phase and a ballistic movement phase whose velocity direction is random. A hidden target is introduced within a rectangular domain with reflecting boundaries. If the searcher moves within range of the target and is in the search phase, it has a chance of detecting the target. A quasi-steady state (QSS) analysis is applied to the corresponding Chapman-Kolmogorov (CK) equation. This generates a reduced Fokker-Planck (FP) description of the search process involving a non-zero drift term and an anisotropic diffusion tensor. In the case of a uniform direction distribution, for which there is zero drift and isotropic diffusion, we use the method of matched asymptotics to compute the mean first passage time (MFPT) to the target, under the assumption that the detection range of the target is much smaller than the size of the domain. We show that an optimal search strategy exists, consistent with previous studies of intermittent search in a radially-symmetric domain that were based on a decoupling or moment closure approximation. We also show how the decoupling approximation can break down in the case of biased search processes. Finally, we analyze the MFPT in the case of anisotropic diffusion, and find that anisotropy can be useful when the searcher starts from a fixed location

Topics: General
Year: 2011
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