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Nowadays, computer simulations of soft matter systems are an important tool in a broad range of fields such as statistical physics, biophysics, chemistry, material sciences, and even food sciences. Examples for such systems are liquid crystals, colloidal dispersions, polymers, DNA, membranes, polymer batteries, fuel cells, and milk foam, to name just a few. All of these systems have in common that they are very complex and often require large length and time scales, and therefore cannot be tackled by brute-force simulations, but require clever coarse-graining and the use of advanced simulation techniques.
ESPResSo, ESPResSo++ and VOTCA are open-source program packages that have been designed particularly to study coarse-grained soft matter systems, and they are used by more than 100 institutions worldwide. The packages are developed at the Institute for Computational Physics at Stuttgart University, Germany and the Max-Planck-Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany.
ESPResSo and its offshoot ESPResSo++ are packages to perform coarse-grained simulations. The packages are very flexible, allowing the users to define a wide range of systems rather easily, even if it requires unusual or even unphysical processes. This also includes the possibility to add new features to the code. This is in contrast to, i.e., simulation packages such as GROMACS, which have been designed to study biomolecules in aqueous surroundings very efficiently, but are less flexible if new algorithms or even model systems have to be added. VOTCA is a tool that lives on top of these and other simulation packages and employs them for systematic coarse-graining.