Good practices in free-energy calculations

J Phys Chem B. 2010 Aug 19;114(32):10235-53. doi: 10.1021/jp102971x.


As access to computational resources continues to increase, free-energy calculations have emerged as a powerful tool that can play a predictive role in a wide range of research areas. Yet, the reliability of these calculations can often be improved significantly if a number of precepts, or good practices, are followed. Although the theory upon which these good practices rely has largely been known for many years, it is often overlooked or simply ignored. In other cases, the theoretical developments are too recent for their potential to be fully grasped and merged into popular platforms for the computation of free-energy differences. In this contribution, the current best practices for carrying out free-energy calculations using free energy perturbation and nonequilibrium work methods are discussed, demonstrating that at little to no additional cost, free-energy estimates could be markedly improved and bounded by meaningful error estimates. Monitoring the probability distributions that underlie the transformation between the states of interest, performing the calculation bidirectionally, stratifying the reaction pathway, and choosing the most appropriate paradigms and algorithms for transforming between states offer significant gains in both accuracy and precision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Entropy*
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Thermodynamics*