Stress and heat flux for arbitrary multibody potentials: A unified framework

Nikhil Chandra Admal, E. B. Tadmor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A two-step unified framework for the evaluation of continuum field expressions from molecular simulations for arbitrary interatomic potentials is presented. First, pointwise continuum fields are obtained using a generalization of the Irving-Kirkwood procedure to arbitrary multibody potentials. Two ambiguities associated with the original Irving-Kirkwood procedure (which was limited to pair potential interactions) are addressed in its generalization. The first ambiguity is due to the nonuniqueness of the decomposition of the force on an atom as a sum of central forces, which is a result of the nonuniqueness of the potential energy representation in terms of distances between the particles. This is in turn related to the shape space of the system. The second ambiguity is due to the nonuniqueness of the energy decomposition between particles. The latter can be completely avoided through an alternate derivation for the energy balance. It is found that the expressions for the specific internal energy and the heat flux obtained through the alternate derivation are quite different from the original Irving-Kirkwood procedure and appear to be more physically reasonable. Next, in the second step of the unified framework, spatial averaging is applied to the pointwise field to obtain the corresponding macroscopic quantities. These lead to expressions suitable for computation in molecular dynamics simulations. It is shown that the important commonly-used microscopic definitions for the stress tensor and heat flux vector are recovered in this process as special cases (generalized to arbitrary multibody potentials). Several numerical experiments are conducted to compare the new expression for the specific internal energy with the original one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number184106
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 14 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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