Chem Sci. 2023 Jul 12;14(31):8338-8354. doi: 10.1039/d3sc02482b. eCollection 2023 Aug 9.
Realistically modelling how solvents affect catalytic reactions is a longstanding challenge due to its prohibitive computational cost. Typically, an explicit atomistic treatment of the solvent molecules is needed together with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and enhanced sampling methods. Here, we demonstrate the utility of machine learning interatomic potentials (MLIPs), coupled with active learning, to enable fast and accurate explicit solvent modelling of adsorption and reactions on heterogeneous catalysts. MLIPs trained on-the-fly were able to accelerate ab initio MD simulations by up to 4 orders of magnitude while reproducing with high fidelity the geometrical features of water in the bulk and at metal-water interfaces. Using these ML-accelerated simulations, we accurately predicted key catalytic quantities such as the adsorption energies of CO*, OH*, COH*, HCO*, and OCCHO* on Cu surfaces and the free energy barriers of C-H scission of ethylene glycol over Cu and Pd surfaces, as validated with ab initio calculations. We envision that such simulations will pave the way towards detailed and realistic studies of solvated catalysts at large time- and length-scales.