Free energy barriers from biased molecular dynamics simulations

KM Bal and S Fukuhara and Y Shibuta and EC Neyts, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 153, 114118 (2020).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0020240

Atomistic simulation methods for the quantification of free energies are in wide use. These methods operate by sampling the probability density of a system along a small set of suitable collective variables (CVs), which is, in turn, expressed in the form of a free energy surface (FES). This definition of the FES can capture the relative stability of metastable states but not that of the transition state because the barrier height is not invariant to the choice of CVs. Free energy barriers therefore cannot be consistently computed from the FES. Here, we present a simple approach to calculate the gauge correction necessary to eliminate this inconsistency. Using our procedure, the standard FES as well as its gauge-corrected counterpart can be obtained by reweighing the same simulated trajectory at little additional cost. We apply the method to a number of systems-a particle solvated in a Lennard-Jones fluid, a Diels-Alder reaction, and crystallization of liquid sodium-to demonstrate its ability to produce consistent free energy barriers that correctly capture the kinetics of chemical or physical transformations, and discuss the additional demands it puts on the chosen CVs. Because the FES can be converged at relatively short (sub-ns) time scales, a free energy-based description of reaction kinetics is a particularly attractive option to study chemical processes at more expensive quantum mechanical levels of theory.

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