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Geometry optimization made simple with translation and rotation coordinates

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The effective description of molecular geometry is important for theoretical studies of intermolecular interactions. Here we introduce a new translation-rotation-internal coordinate (TRIC) system which explicitly includes the collective translations and rotations of molecules, or parts of molecules such as monomers or ligands, as degrees of freedom. The translations are described as the centroid position and the orientations are represented with the exponential map parameterization of quaternions. When TRIC is incorporated into geometry optimization calculations, the performance is consistently superior to existing coordinate systems for a diverse set of systems including water clusters, organic semiconductor donor-acceptor complexes, and small proteins, all of which are characterized by nontrivial intermolecular interactions. The method also introduces a new way to scan the molecular orientations while allowing orthogonal degrees of freedom to relax. Our findings indicate that an explicit description of molecular translation and rotation is a natural way to traverse the many-dimensional potential energy surface.

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