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Publication# Charge fluctuations from molecular simulations in the constant-potential ensemble

Abstract

We revisit the statistical mechanics of charge fluctuations in capacitors. In constant-potential classical molecular simulations, the atomic charges of electrode atoms are treated as additional degrees of freedom which evolve in time so as to satisfy the constraint of fixed electrostatic potential for each configuration of the electrolyte. The present work clarifies the role of the overall electroneutrality constraint, as well as the link between the averages computed within the Born-Oppenheimer approximation and that of the full constant-potential ensemble. This allows us in particular to derive a complete fluctuation-dissipation relation for the differential capacitance, that includes a contribution from the charge fluctuations (around the charges satisfying the constant-potential and electroneutrality constraints) also present in the absence of an electrolyte. We provide a simple expression for this contribution from the elements of the inverse of the matrix defining the quadratic form of the fluctuating charges in the energy. We then illustrate numerically the validity of our results, and recover the expected continuum result for an empty capacitor with structureless electrodes at large inter-electrode distances. By considering a variety of liquids between graphite electrodes, we confirm that this contribution to the total differential capacitance is small compared to that induced by the thermal fluctuations of the electrolyte.

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Related concepts (3)

Molecular modelling

Molecular modelling encompasses all methods, theoretical and computational, used to model or mimic the behaviour of molecules. The methods are used in the fields of computational chemistry, drug design, computational biology and materials science to study molecular systems ranging from small chemical systems to large biological molecules and material assemblies. The simplest calculations can be performed by hand, but inevitably computers are required to perform molecular modelling of any reasonably sized system.

Molecular dynamics

Molecular dynamics (MD) is a computer simulation method for analyzing the physical movements of atoms and molecules. The atoms and molecules are allowed to interact for a fixed period of time, giving a view of the dynamic "evolution" of the system. In the most common version, the trajectories of atoms and molecules are determined by numerically solving Newton's equations of motion for a system of interacting particles, where forces between the particles and their potential energies are often calculated using interatomic potentials or molecular mechanical force fields.

Statistical mechanics

In physics, statistical mechanics is a mathematical framework that applies statistical methods and probability theory to large assemblies of microscopic entities. It does not assume or postulate any natural laws, but explains the macroscopic behavior of nature from the behavior of such ensembles. Sometimes called statistical physics or statistical thermodynamics, its applications include many problems in the fields of physics, biology, chemistry, and neuroscience.