Path integral molecular dynamics for fermions: Alleviating the sign problem with the Bogoliubov inequality

Barak Hirshberg*, Michele Invernizzi, Michele Parrinello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a method for performing path integral molecular dynamics (PIMD) simulations for fermions and address its sign problem. PIMD simulations are widely used for studying many-body quantum systems at thermal equilibrium. However, they assume that the particles are distinguishable and neglect bosonic and fermionic exchange effects. Interacting fermions play a key role in many chemical and physical systems, such as electrons in quantum dots and ultracold trapped atoms. A direct sampling of the fermionic partition function is impossible using PIMD since its integrand is not positive definite. We show that PIMD simulations for fermions are feasible by employing our recently developed method for bosonic PIMD and reweighting the results to obtain fermionic expectation values. The approach is tested against path integral Monte Carlo (PIMC) simulations for up to seven electrons in a two-dimensional quantum dot for a range of interaction strengths. However, like PIMC, the method suffers from the sign problem at low temperatures. We propose a simple approach for alleviating it by simulating an auxiliary system with a larger average sign and obtaining an upper bound to the energy of the original system using the Bogoliubov inequality. This allows fermions to be studied at temperatures lower than would otherwise have been feasible using PIMD, as demonstrated in the case of a three-electron quantum dot. Our results extend the boundaries of PIMD simulations of fermions and will hopefully stimulate the development of new approaches for tackling the sign problem.

Original languageEnglish
Article number171102
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number17
StatePublished - 7 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


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