A KIM-compliant potfit for fitting sloppy interatomic potentials: Application to the EDIP model for silicon

Mingjian Wen, Junhao Li, Peter Brommer, Ryan S. Elliott, James P. Sethna, Ellad B. Tadmor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Fitted interatomic potentials are widely used in atomistic simulations thanks to their ability to compute the energy and forces on atoms quickly. However, the simulation results crucially depend on the quality of the potential being used. Force matching is a method aimed at constructing reliable and transferable interatomic potentials by matching the forces computed by the potential as closely as possible, with those obtained from first principles calculations. The potfit program is an implementation of the force-matching method that optimizes the potential parameters using a global minimization algorithm followed by a local minimization polish. We extended potfit in two ways. First, we adapted the code to be compliant with the KIM Application Programming Interface (API) standard (part of the Knowledgebase of Interatomic Models project). This makes it possible to use potfit to fit many KIM potential models, not just those prebuilt into the potfit code. Second, we incorporated the geodesic Levenberg-Marquardt (LM) minimization algorithm into potfit as a new local minimization algorithm. The extended potfit was tested by generating a training set using the KIM environment-dependent interatomic potential (EDIP) model for silicon and using potfit to recover the potential parameters from different initial guesses. The results show that EDIP is a 'sloppy model' in the sense that its predictions are insensitive to some of its parameters, which makes fitting more difficult. We find that the geodesic LM algorithm is particularly efficient for this case. The extended potfit code is the first step in developing a KIM-based fitting framework for interatomic potentials for bulk and two-dimensional materials. The code is available for download via https://www.potfit.net.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014001
JournalModelling and Simulation in Materials Science and Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was partly supported through the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grants No. PHY-0941493 and DMR-1408211. The authors acknowledge the support of the Army Research Office (W911NF-14-1-0247) under the MURI program.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • Knowledgebase of Interatomic Models
  • geodesic Levenberg-Marquardt minimization-force-matching fitting
  • interatomic potentials
  • potfit
  • sloppy models


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