A recipe for the computation of the free energy barrier and the lowest free energy path of concerted reactions
JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY B, 109, 6676 (2005)
The recently introduced hills method (Proc. Natt. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2002, 99, 12562) is a powerful tool to compute the multidimensional free energy surface of intrinsically concerted reactions. We have extended this method by focusing our attention on localizing the lowest free energy path that connects the stable reactant and product states. This path represents the most probable reaction mechanism, similar to the zero temperature intrinsic reaction coordinate, but also includes finite temperature effects. The transformation of the multidimensional problem to a one-dimensional reaction coordinate allows for accurate convergence of the free energy profile along the lowest free energy path using standard free energy methods. Here we apply the hills method, our lowest free energy path search algorithm, and umbrella sampling to the prototype S(N)2 reaction. The hills method replaces the in many cases difficult problem of finding a good reaction coordinate with choosing relatively simple collective variables, such as the bond lengths of the broken and formed chemical bonds. The second part of the paper presents a guide to using the hills method, in which we test and fine-tune the method for optimal accuracy and efficiency using the umbrella sampling results as a reference.