Machine-Learned Committor Functions for Reactive Molecular Dynamics
Reactive molecular dynamics (MD) is a powerful tool for atomistic-scale modeling of a diverse range of chemical processes. However, scaling these simulations to large systems and long times scales remains a challenge because of the complexity of the potential energy function required. The authors previously developed a heuristic approach, called REACTER, that incorporates reactivity in MD simulations in a less general but much more computationally efficient manner. REACTER uses standard, fixed valence force fields as the underlying potential energy surface for describing all interatomic interactions but adds a procedure for enforcing user-defined reactions that occur when certain geometric constraints on relative atomic positions are satisfied. This work seeks to generalize this approach by replacing the set of user-defined geometric constraints and energetic criteria with a committor function that specifies the probability of a reaction occurring as a function of the local atomic configuration. The committor function is a useful mathematical tool for modeling rare events but, unfortunately, is difficult to compute for realistic systems in a general way. This work describes a method for approximating the committor function using a machine learning approach, specifically a deep neural network trained with data from reactive MD and DFT-based dynamics simulations. This network is coupled to the existing REACTER protocol, as implemented in the LAMMPS MD package, and used to make on-the-fly predictions of reaction probabilities without the more extensive user input previously required. The new method is demonstrated using the polymerization of polystyrene as a case study. Although very dependent on the quality and quantity of training data, machine-learned committor functions show promise as a method for incorporating reaction probability from higher level calculations into highly scalable MD simulations.