Accurate energy barriers for catalytic reaction pathways: an automatic training protocol for machine learning force fields

LL Schaaf and E Fako and S De and A Schaefer and G Csanyi, NPJ COMPUTATIONAL MATERIALS, 9, 180 (2023).

DOI: 10.1038/s41524-023-01124-2

We introduce a training protocol for developing machine learning force fields (MLFFs), capable of accurately determining energy barriers in catalytic reaction pathways. The protocol is validated on the extensively explored hydrogenation of carbon dioxide to methanol over indium oxide. With the help of active learning, the final force field obtains energy barriers within 0.05 eV of Density Functional Theory. Thanks to the computational speedup, not only do we reduce the cost of routine in-silico catalytic tasks, but also find an alternative path for the previously established rate-limiting step, with a 40% reduction in activation energy. Furthermore, we illustrate the importance of finite temperature effects and compute free energy barriers. The transferability of the protocol is demonstrated on the experimentally relevant, yet unexplored, top-layer reduced indium oxide surface. The ability of MLFFs to enhance our understanding of extensively studied catalysts underscores the need for fast and accurate alternatives to direct ab-initio simulations.

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