Parameter definitions

Parameter definitions within force field XMLs follow the same conventions as defined in the OpenMM documentation. Currently, only certain functional forms for molecular forces are supported, while future developments are expected to allow Foyer to support any desired functional form, including reactive and tabulated potentials. The currently supported functional forms for molecular forces are:

Definitions for each molecular force follow the OpenMM standard.

The harmonic bond potential is defined as

\[E = \frac{1}{2}k(r-r_{0})^{2}\]

where k is the bond coefficient (\(\frac{energy}{distance^{2}}\)) and r0 is the equilibrium bond distance. Note the factor of \(\frac{1}{2}\).

Dihedral potentials reported as a fourier series (e.g., OPLS) can be converted to Ryckaert-Bellemans (RB) torsions as specified in the GROMACS User Manual.

Classes vs. Types

OpenMM allows users to specify either a class or a type (See Atom Types and Atom Classes), to define each particle within the force definition. Here, type refers to a specific atom type (as defined in the <AtomTypes> section), while class refers to a more general description that can apply to multiple atomtypes (i.e. multiple atomtypes may share the same class). This aids in limiting the number of force definitions required in a force field XML, as many similar atom types may share force parameters.

Assigning parameters by specificity

Foyer deviates from OpenMM’s convention when matching force definitions in a force field XML to instances of these forces in a molecular system. In OpenMM, forces are assigned according to the first matching definition in a force field XML, even if multiple matching definitions exist. In contrast, Foyer assigns force parameters based on definition specificity, where definitions containing more type attributes are considered to be more specific.


  <Proper class1="CT" class2="CT" class3="CT" class4="CT" c0="2.9288" c1="-1.4644" c2="0.2092" c3="-1.6736" c4="0.0" c5="0.0"/>
  <Proper type1="opls_961" type2="opls_136" type3="opls_136" type4="opls_136" c0="-0.987424" c1="0.08363" c2="-0.08368" c3="-0.401664" c4="1.389088" c5="0.0"/>

Above, two proper torsions are defined, both describing a torsional force between four tetrahedral carbons. However, the first definition features four class attributes and zero type attributes, as this describes a general dihedral for all tetrahedral carbons. The second definition features zero class attributes and four type attributes, and describes a more specific dihedral for the case where one end carbon is of type 'opls_961' (a fluorinated carbon) and the remaining three carbons are of type 'opls_136' (alkane carbons). Now consider we want to use a force field containing the above torsion definitions to assign parameters to some molecular system that features partially fluorinated alkanes. When assigning torsion parameters to a quartet of atoms where one end carbon is fluorinated ('opls_961') and the remaining three are hydrogenated ('opls_136'), if using the OpenMM procedure for parameter assignment the more general 'CT-CT-CT-CT' torsion parameters (the first definition above) would be assigned because this would be the first matching definition in the force field XML. However, with Foyer, the second definition will be auto-detected as more specific, due to the greater number of type attributes (4 vs. 0) and those parameters will be assigned instead.

It should be noted that if two definitions feature the same specificity level (i.e. the same number of type definitions) then automatic detection of precedence is not possible and parameter assignment will follow the OpenMM procedure whereby parameters from the first matching force definition in the XML will be assigned.