Molecular free path distribution in rarefied gases

Nishanth Dongari, Yonghao Zhang, Jason Reese

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We present the results of investigations into the distribution of molecular free paths in rarefied gases using molecular dynamics simulations. Our tests on a range of different gas densities and confinements (unbounded, single bounding wall and parallel bounding walls) indicate that the molecules perform Lévy-type flights, irrespective of the presence of a bounding wall. The free paths most closely follow a power-law distribution. Simulations of gases confined by planar surfaces indicate that the local molecular mean free path varies sharply close to a solid surface. These results may yield new insight into diffusive transport in rarefied gases, in particular, the constitutive behaviour of gas flows in micro- and nanoscale devices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)Article 125502
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2011


  • molecular free paths
  • rarefied gases
  • molecular dynamics simulations
  • gas flows in micro and nanoscale devices

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