electronic international standard serial number (EISSN)
A spin-oscillator system models unzipping of biomolecules (such as DNA, RNA, or proteins) subject to an external force. The system comprises a macroscopic degree of freedom, represented by a one-dimensional oscillator, and internal degrees of freedom, represented by Glauber spins with nearest-neighbor interaction and a coupling constant proportional to the oscillator position. At a critical value F-c of an applied external force F, the oscillator rest position (order parameter) changes abruptly and the system undergoes a first-order phase transition. When the external force is cycled at different rates, the extension given by the oscillator position exhibits a hysteresis cycle at high loading rates, whereas it moves reversibly over the equilibrium force-extension curve at very low loading rates. Under constant force, the logarithm of the residence time at the stable and metastable oscillator rest position is proportional to F - F-c as in an Arrhenius law.