Optimal Alignment of Structures for Finite and Periodic Systems

03 Nov 2017

Finding the optimal alignment between two structures is important for identifying the minimum root-mean-square distance (RMSD) between them and as a starting point for calculating pathways. Most current algorithms for aligning structures are stochastic, scale exponentially with the size of structure, and the performance can be unreliable. We present two complementary methods for aligning structures corresponding to isolated clusters of atoms and to condensed matter described by a periodic cubic supercell. The first method (Go-PERMDIST), a branch and bound algorithm, locates the global minimum RMSD deterministically in polynomial time. The run time increases for larger RMSDs. The second method (FASTOVERLAP) is a heuristic algorithm that aligns structures by finding the global maximum kernel correlation between them using fast Fourier transforms (FFTs) and fast SO(3) transforms (SOFTs). For periodic systems, FASTOVERLAP scales with the square of the number of identical atoms in the system, reliably finds the best alignment between structures that are not too distant, and shows significantly better performance than existing algorithms. The expected run time for Go-PERMDIST is longer than FASTOVERLAP for periodic systems. For finite clusters, the FASTOVERLAP algorithm is competitive with existing algorithms. The expected run time for Go-PERMDIST to find the global RMSD between two structures deterministically is generally longer than for existing stochastic algorithms. However, with an earlier exit condition, Go-PERMDIST exhibits similar or better performance.