Enhancing Entropy and Enthalpy Fluctuations to Drive Crystallization in Atomistic Simulations

PM Piaggi and O Valsson and M Parrinello, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 119, 015701 (2017).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.015701

Crystallization is a process of great practical relevance in which rare but crucial fluctuations lead to the formation of a solid phase starting from the liquid. As in all first order first transitions, there is an interplay between enthalpy and entropy. Based on this idea, in order to drive crystallization in molecular simulations, we introduce two collective variables, one enthalpic and the other entropic. Defined in this way, these collective variables do not prejudge the structure into which the system is going to crystallize. We show the usefulness of this approach by studying the cases of sodium and aluminum that crystallize in the bcc and fcc crystalline structures, respectively. Using these two generic collective variables, we perform variationally enhanced sampling and well tempered metadynamics simulations and find that the systems transform spontaneously and reversibly between the liquid and the solid phases.

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