Molecular dynamics with rigid bodies: Alternative formulation and assessment of its limitations when employed to simulate liquid water

AJ Silveira and CRA Abreu, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 147, 124104 (2017).

DOI: 10.1063/1.5003636

Sets of atoms collectively behaving as rigid bodies are often used in molecular dynamics to model entire molecules or parts thereof. This is a coarse-graining strategy that eliminates degrees of freedom and supposedly admits larger time steps without abandoning the atomistic character of a model. In this paper, we rely on a particular factorization of the rotation matrix to simplify the mechanical formulation of systems containing rigid bodies. We then propose a new derivation for the exact solution of torque-free rotations, which are employed as part of a symplectic numerical integration scheme for rigid- body dynamics. We also review methods for calculating pressure in systems of rigid bodies with pairwise-additive potentials and periodic boundary conditions. Finally, simulations of liquid phases, with special focus on water, are employed to analyze the numerical aspects of the proposed methodology. Our results show that energy drift is avoided for time step sizes up to 5 fs, but only if a proper smoothing is applied to the interatomic potentials. Despite this, the effects of discretization errors are relevant, even for smaller time steps. These errors induce, for instance, a systematic failure of the expected equipartition of kinetic energy between translational and rotational degrees of freedom. Published by AIP Publishing.

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