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Perspective: Insight into reaction coordinates and dynamics from the potential energy landscape
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This perspective focuses on conceptual and computational aspects of the potential energy landscape framework. It has two objectives: first to summarise some key developments of the approach and second to illustrate how such techniques can be applied using a specific example that exploits knowledge of pathways. Recent developments in theory and simulation within the landscape framework are first outlined, including methods for structure prediction, analysis of global thermodynamic properties, and treatment of rare event dynamics. We then develop a connection between the kinetic transition network treatment of dynamics and a potential of mean force defined by a reaction coordinate. The effect of projection from the full configuration space to low dimensionality is illustrated for an atomic cluster. In this example, where a relatively successful structural order parameter is available, the principal change in cluster morphology is reproduced, but some details are not faithfully represented. In contrast, a profile based on configurations that correspond to the discrete path defined geometrically retains all the barriers and minima. This comparison provides insight into the physical origins of “friction” effects in low-dimensionality descriptions of dynamics based upon a reaction coordinate.
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