On the proper calculation of electrostatic interactions in solid-supported bilayer systems

J Chem Phys. 2011 Feb 7;134(5):055109. doi: 10.1063/1.3548836.


Modeling systems that are not inherently isotropic, e.g., extended bilayers, using molecular simulation techniques poses a potential problem. Since these methods rely on a finite number of atoms and molecules to describe the system, periodic boundary conditions are implemented to avoid edge effects and capture long-range electrostatic interactions. Systems consisting of a solvated bilayer adsorbed on a solid surface and exposed to an air/vacuum interface occur in many experimental settings and present some unique challenges in this respect. Here, we investigated the effects of implementing different electrostatic boundary conditions on the structural and electrostatic properties of a quartz/water/vacuum interface and a similar quartz-supported hydrated lipid bilayer exposed to vacuum. Since these interfacial systems have a net polarization, implementing the standard Ewald summation with the conducting boundary condition for the electrostatic long-range interactions introduced an artificial periodicity in the out-of-plane dimension. In particular, abnormal orientational polarizations of water were observed with the conducting boundary condition. Implementing the Ewald summation technique with the planar vacuum boundary condition and calculating electrostatic properties compatible with the implemented electrostatic boundary condition removed these inconsistencies. This formulation is generally applicable to similar interfacial systems in bulk solution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine / chemistry*
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Quartz / chemistry
  • Static Electricity
  • Surface Properties
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Water
  • Quartz
  • Dimyristoylphosphatidylcholine