Further cautionary tales on thermostatting in molecular dynamics: Energy equipartitioning and non-equilibrium processes in gas-phase simulations

R Halonen and I Neefjes and B Reischl, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 158, 194301 (2023).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0148013

Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations of gas-phase chemical reactions are typically carried out on a small number of molecules near thermal equilibrium by means of various thermostatting algorithms. Correct equipartitioning of kinetic energy among translations, rotations, and vibrations of the simulated reactants is critical for many processes occurring in the gas phase. As thermalizing collisions are infrequent in gas-phase simulations, the thermostat has to efficiently reach equipartitioning in the system during equilibration and maintain it throughout the actual simulation. Furthermore, in non-equilibrium simulations where heat is released locally, the action of the thermostat should not lead to unphysical changes in the overall dynamics of the system. Here, we explore issues related to both obtaining and maintaining thermal equilibrium in MD simulations of an exemplary ion- molecule dimerization reaction. We first compare the efficiency of global (Nose-Hoover and Canonical Sampling through Velocity Rescaling) and local (Langevin) thermostats for equilibrating a system of flexible compounds and find that of these three only the Langevin thermostat achieves equipartition in a reasonable simulation time. We then study the effect of the unphysical removal of latent heat released during simulations involving multiple dimerization events. As the Langevin thermostat does not produce the correct dynamics in the free molecular regime, we only consider the commonly used Nose-Hoover thermostat, which is shown to effectively cool down the reactants, leading to an overestimation of the dimerization rate. Our findings underscore the importance of thermostatting for the proper thermal initialization of gas-phase systems and the consequences of global thermostatting in non- equilibrium simulations.

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