Ivy on the Ceiling: First-Order Polymer Depinning Transitions with Quenched Disorder

K.S. Alexander

2007, v.13, №4, 663-680

ABSTRACT

We consider a polymer, with monomer locations modeled by the trajectory of an underlying Markov chain, in the presence of a potential that interacts with the polymer when it visits a particular site $0$. Disorder is introduced by having the interaction vary from one monomer to another, as a constant $u$ plus i.i.d. mean-$0$ randomness. There is a critical value of $u$ above which the polymer is pinned, placing a positive fraction (called the contact fraction) of its monomers at $0$ with high probability. When the excursions of the underlying chain have a finite mean but no finite exponential moment, it is known [K.S. Alexander and V. Sidoravicius, Pinning of polymers and interfaces by random potentials. Ann. Appl. Probab., 2006, v.16, 636-669] that the depinning transition (more precisely, the contact fraction) in the corresponding annealed system is discontinuous. One generally expects the presence of disorder to smooth transitions, and it is known [G. Giacomin and F.L. Toninelli, Smoothing effect of quenched disorder on polymer depinning transitions. Commun. Math. Phys., 2006, v.266, 1-16] that when the excursion length distribution has power-law tails, the quenched system has a continuous transition even if the annealed system does not. We show here that when the underlying chain is transient but the finite part of the excursion length distribution has exponential tails, then the depinning transition is discontinuous even in the quenched system, and the quenched and annealed critical points are strictly different. By contrast, in the recurrent case, the depinning behavior depends on the subexponential prefactors on the exponential decay of the excursion length distribution, and when these prefactors decay with an appropriate power law, the quenched transition is continuous even though the annealed one is not.

Keywords: pinning,polymer,disorder,interface

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