Water: one molecule, two surfaces, one mistake

C Vega, MOLECULAR PHYSICS, 113, 1145-1163 (2015).

DOI: 10.1080/00268976.2015.1005191

In order to rigorously evaluate the energy and dipole moment of a certain configuration of molecules, one needs to solve the Schrodinger equation. Repeating this for many different configurations allows one to determine the potential energy surface (PES) and the dipole moment surface (DMS). Since the early days of computer simulation, it has been implicitly accepted that for empirical potentials the charges used to fit the PES should also be used to describe the DMS. This is a mistake. Partial charges are not observable magnitudes. They should be regarded as adjustable fitting parameters. Optimal values used to describe the PES are not necessarily the best to describe the DMS. One could use two fits: one for the PES and the other for the DMS. This is a common practice in the quantum chemistry community, but not used so often by the community performing computer simulations. This idea affects all types of modelling of water (with the exception of ab initio calculations) from coarse-grained to non-polarisable and polarisable models. We anticipate that an area that will benefit dramatically from having both, a good PES and a good DMS, is the modelling of water in the presence of electric fields.

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