Journal of Nonlinear Science

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 105–129 | Cite as

Heteroclinic Ratchets in Networks of Coupled Oscillators



We analyze an example system of four coupled phase oscillators and discover a novel phenomenon that we call a “heteroclinic ratchet”; a particular type of robust heteroclinic network on a torus where connections wind in only one direction. The coupling structure has only one symmetry, but there are a number of invariant subspaces and degenerate bifurcations forced by the coupling structure, and we investigate these. We show that the system can have a robust attracting heteroclinic network that responds to a specific detuning Δ between certain pairs of oscillators by a breaking of phase locking for arbitrary Δ>0 but not for Δ≤0. Similarly, arbitrary small noise results in asymmetric desynchronization of certain pairs of oscillators, where particular oscillators have always larger frequency after the loss of synchronization. We call this heteroclinic network a heteroclinic ratchet because of its resemblance to a mechanical ratchet in terms of its dynamical consequences. We show that the existence of heteroclinic ratchets does not depend on symmetry or number of oscillators but depends on the specific connection structure of the coupled system.


Synchronization Coupled oscillators Heteroclinic ratchet Asymmetric desynchronization Synchrony-breaking bifurcation 

Mathematics Subject Classification (2000)

34C15 34C37 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mathematics Research Institute, School of Engineering, Computing and MathematicsUniversity of ExeterExeterUK

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