OpenKIM is a major open source effort funded by the NSF to develop standards and improve the reliability of molecular simulations.
The OpenKIM Repository contains interatomic models (interatomic potentials and force fields), verification checks that inspect models for coding correctness, simulation codes (called "tests") that compute different material properties, and first-principles/experimental reference data. Whenever a new model is added to the system it is automatically coupled and run with all compatible verification checks and tests. Similarly any new verification check or test is automatically coupled with all compatible models. The verification check and test results obtained in this fashion are inserted into the OpenKIM Repository and can be explored using the OpenKIM interface including visualizations comparing the predictions of different models with each other and with reference data. This allows users to select and download appropriate models for their application. Models archived in OpenKIM can be used seamlessly with several major simulation code that are compatible with the KIM framework.
This document briefly describes the main OpenKIM features and capabilities and points to more information on how to use them. This is a good place to start if you are new to KIM (or need a reminder on how to do something).
The OpenKIM Repository provides permanent curated storage of interatomic models, verification checks, material property tests, reference data, and model predictions (test results). (For details, see the types of KIM content.) Best practice revision and provenance control are employed to ensure content integrity.
All content archived in OpenKIM is reviewed by the KIM Editor for quality and is subject to full provenance control. Each item is associated with a maintainer responsible for the integrity of the content. All changes are tracked and recorded.
Each item in OpenKIM is
identified by a unique, permanent
KIM ID of the following form:
CC denotes the item type,
DDDDDDDDDDDDD is a 12-digit code, and
VVV is a version number.
Any changes that can result in different numerical values lead to a
version increment in the KIM ID. This makes it possible to reproduce
simulations since the specific version of a specific interatomic model
used can be retrieved using its KIM ID.
(For details, see the Guide to KIM IDs.)
Each item in OpenKIM is associated with an
Item Page (Model Page, Test Page, etc.), which provides
information on the item, simulation results, associated files, and a Wiki
with documentation and comments by contributors and users of the item.
The URL for the item page has the following form:
KIM_ID is replaced by the
item's KIM ID. See for example,
the Model Page for the Stillinger-Weber potential.
OpenKIM is a member organization of DataCite and issues digital object identifiers (DOIs) to certain items archived in the OpenKIM Repository including Models, Model Drivers (software used by Models), Test Drivers (software used by Tests), and Verification Checks. This makes it possible to cite OpenKIM content in publications (such as a KIM Model used in a simulation) to give credit to the developers and further facilitate reproducibility. For more details, see KIM DOIs and Citing KIM Items.
The OpenKIM Repository is designed to be user-extendable. Contributions of new Models, Tests, Verification Checks, Reference Data, and Visualizers are encouraged. See instructions on adding new content to KIM.
Interatomic models stored in the OpenKIM Repository are exhaustively tested providing users with a wealth of information to help them select a suitable model for a given application.
Each Model is subjected to a series of
Verification Checks evaluating
its integrity, e.g. Are the forces returned by the model consistent
with those obtained through numerical differentiation of the energy? Does the
model have continuous energy and derivatives at its cutoff? and so on.
The Model is graded on each Verification Check and the results are presented
in a dashboard on its Model Page. To learn more, see About Verification Checks.
The OpenKIM Repository contains
KIM Tests, uploaded by researchers, that
compute material properties of interest (such as equilibrium crystal structures,
elastic constants, surface energies, thermal properties, etc.). The Tests are
applied to all compatible interatomic models in the repository. The results are
stored and can be examined and compared using
visualization tools and text-based tools.
Timing information is also provided so that the relative expense of different
Models for the same computation can be assessed.
OpenKIM provides a framework for researchers to broadly distribute and accelerate their molecular simulations research.
It is the aim of the KIM project
KIM Tests to become standard, citeable methods for computing
important material properties. A great deal of expertise is required to
compute material properties rigorously and robustly. For more information on KIM Tests and to learn how you can work with the KIM Team on adapting your simulations and expertise to craft a new test, see the Introduction to KIM Tests.
Test results archived in the OpenKIM Repository are accessible through the OpenKIM Query API, which is interfaced into some simulation codes. This means that the predictions of a specific model (e.g. the equilibrium lattice constant of a diamond crystal, or the elastic constant of an L12 alloy) can be used as part of the setup and analysis of molecular simulations. As an example of how this works, see KIM queries in LAMMPS. Query statistics are collected so that Test contributors have documented evidence for the impact of their work.
Models archived in OpenKIM can be used with simulation codes that are
compatible with the KIM Application Programming Interface (API).
There are two types of OpenKIM models:
Portable Models (PMs) that
can be used in multiple simulation codes, and
Simulator Models (SMs) that only work with a specific simulator.
Portable Model is an independent computer implementation of an
interatomic model written in one of the languages supported by KIM
(C, C++, Fortran) that conforms to the KIM API Portable Model Interface
(PMI) standard. A KIM PM will work seamlessly with any simulation code
that supports the KIM API/PMI standard (much like a DVD works seamlessly with
a DVD player). (See current list of KIM-compliant codes
Simulator Model is a package curated on OpenKIM that specifies how
to setup and run a model that is implemented as an integrated part of a
simulation code (simulator). For simulators that support the KIM API Simulator
Model Interface (SMI), KIM SM's can be obtained and used in a simple fashion.
A KIM SM package includes all of the necessary parameter files, simulator input
commands, and metadata (supported species, units, etc.) needed to run the model
in its native simulator. Currently only LAMMPS
supports the KIM API/SMI; OpenKIM has a large number of LAMMPS SMs.
Uploading a new SM to OpenKIM is as simple as filling in an
The fact that a
Portable Model includes the complete computer
implementation of the interatomic model (and not just parameter files used
by another code as for a
Simulator Model) is important, since in some cases
the same parameter file can lead to different results when read in
by different programs. (For a discussion of this effect for tabulated
EAM potentials, see Wen et al. (2015).)
Both KIM PMs and SMs provide support for managing the units requirements of the simulator and interatomic model. PMs can be designed to convert the model's parameters to conform to the units requested by the calling simulator. For SMs, a mechanism can be added to the simulator to manage unit conversion. For an example, see unit conversion handling for KIM SMs in LAMMPS. This simplifies the use of interatomic models and reduces the likelihood of errors due to incompatible units.
To use KIM Models with a KIM-compliant simulation code, you first need
to install the KIM API. Installation from source and from binary are possible.
See detailed instructions on how to install the KIM API and
how to download and install KIM Models. Once this done, using a KIM Model
simply involves providing its
KIM ID in the simulator input file.
(See the instructions on how to use KIM Models in your simulator.)
OpenKIM provides a framework for interatomic model developers to distribute
their interatomic models in a reliable fashion providing their users with
information on usage and citation of the model on its Model Page (see above),
which they can maintain themselves. In addition, as noted above,
models conforming to the KIM API/PMI (i.e.
Portable Models) become
available at once to a large number of
If you are still not a member, we encourage you to sign up. Becoming a KIM member is free and allows you to vote on important issues related to the project and its administration (see benefits of membership. KIM Members have the option of being informed of major developments via email. (For continuous updates on developments, follow OpenKIM on Twitter.) Note that you do not need to be a member to access KIM content.
Check out the extensive documentation on all aspects of the KIM framework. In addition, support is always available by posting questions with all relevant information to the OpenKIM forum at
Members of the OpenKIM development team actively monitor this forum and will do their best to respond to questions in a timely fashion.