High-throughput screening of tribological properties of monolayer films using molecular dynamics and machine learning

Co D. Quach, Justin B. Gilmer, Daniel Pert, Akanke Mason-Hogans, Christopher R. Iacovella, Peter T. Cummings, Clare McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Monolayer films have shown promise as a lubricating layer to reduce friction and wear of mechanical devices with separations on the nanoscale. These films have a vast design space with many tunable properties that can affect their tribological effectiveness. For example, terminal group chemistry, film composition, and backbone chemistry can all lead to films with significantly different tribological properties. This design space, however, is very difficult to explore without a combinatorial approach and an automatable, reproducible, and extensible workflow to screen for promising candidate films. Using the Molecular Simulation Design Framework (MoSDeF), a combinatorial screening study was performed to explore 9747 unique monolayer films (116 964 total simulations) and a machine learning (ML) model using a random forest regressor, an ensemble learning technique, to explore the role of terminal group chemistry and its effect on tribological effectiveness. The most promising films were found to contain small terminal groups such as cyano and ethylene. The ML model was subsequently applied to screen terminal group candidates identified from the ChEMBL small molecule library. Approximately 193 131 unique film candidates were screened with approximately a five order of magnitude speed-up in analysis compared to simulation alone. The ML model was thus able to be used as a predictive tool to greatly speed up the initial screening of promising candidate films for future simulation studies, suggesting that computational screening in combination with ML can greatly increase the throughput in combinatorial approaches to generate in silico data and then train ML models in a controlled, self-consistent fashion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154902
JournalThe Journal of Chemical Physics
Issue number15
Early online date19 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2022


  • Friction
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Machine Learning
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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