Increasing the time step in molecular dynamics

Anna M. Nyberg, Tamar Schlick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine how the two properties of the Langevin/implicit-Euler scheme for molecular dynamics (MD) - stability over large time steps and damping of high-frequency vibrations greater than some cutoff frequency ωc - affect the dynamics of liquid butane model. For time steps Δt≤ 20 fs with a "natural" cutoff ωc=kBT/⇌h (kB and ⇌h are Boltzmann's and Planck's constants, T = temperature), the associated kinetic energy is greater than 85% of its value of Δt=1 fs, where the connection to a heat bath is weak and the generated trajectories by our scheme and conventional MD are similar. At larger Δt the connection to the heat bath is much stronger, and for Δt > 20 fs the intrinsic numerical damping of the scheme sets in. The comparison of bond-length and dihedral-angle distributions at three different time steps reveals a small, broadening trend at larger Δt. The differences in a dynamic property, the velocity autocorrelation function, are however much larger. There is a drastic difference for 2 and 20 fs, and for Δt > 40 fs most of the motion between time steps is damped and more random. Thus, while the Langevin equation per se gives a Boltzmann distribution, the expected configurational sampling can be obtained as long as the numerical damping does not disturb the balance between the random and damping terms. Consequently, for studying certain dynamic functions time steps in the same range as in conventional MD are needed, but for static properties larger time steps can be used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-546
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Physics Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 23 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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