We use a minimal system with a single micron-size bead trapped with optical tweezers to investigate the kinetics of escape under force. Surprisingly, the exponential decay of the off rate with the barrier energy is still valid close to the critical force. Hence, the high viscosity approximation derived by Kramers in the case of a high energy barrier holds even for an energy barrier close to the thermal energy. Several recent models describe a single biomolecule bond by a smooth single-barrier energy profile. When this approach is accurate enough, our result justifies the use of Kramers' approximation in the high-force regime, close to the critical force of the system, as done in recent single biomolecule bond studies.

J. Chem. Phys.

Husson, J., Dogterom, M., & Pincet, F. (2009). Force spectroscopy of a single artificial biomolecule bond : The Kramers' high-barrier limit holds close to the critical force. J. Chem. Phys., 130(Article number: 51103), 1–4. doi:10.1063/1.3077010