Concept

Bistability

Summary
In a dynamical system, bistability means the system has two stable equilibrium states. A bistable structure can be resting in either of two states. An example of a mechanical device which is bistable is a light switch. The switch lever is designed to rest in the "on" or "off" position, but not between the two. Bistable behavior can occur in mechanical linkages, electronic circuits, nonlinear optical systems, chemical reactions, and physiological and biological systems. In a conservative force field, bistability stems from the fact that the potential energy has two local minima, which are the stable equilibrium points. These rest states need not have equal potential energy. By mathematical arguments, a local maximum, an unstable equilibrium point, must lie between the two minima. At rest, a particle will be in one of the minimum equilibrium positions, because that corresponds to the state of lowest energy. The maximum can be visualized as a barrier between them. A system can tr
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