An improved way of estimating the local tangent in the nudged elastic band method for finding minimum energy paths is presented. In systems where the force along the minimum energy path is large compared to the restoring force perpendicular to the path and when many images of the system are included in the elastic band, kinks can develop and prevent the band from converging to the minimum energy path. We show how the kinks arise and present an improved way of estimating the local tangent which solves the problem. The task of finding an accurate energy and configuration for the saddle point is also discussed and examples given where a complementary method, the dimer method, is used to efficiently converge to the saddle point. Both methods only require the first derivative of the energy and can, therefore, easily be applied in plane wave based density-functional theory calculations. Examples are given from studies of the exchange diffusion mechanism in a Si crystal, Al addimer formation on the Al(100) surface, and dissociative adsorption of CH4 on an Ir(111) surface.

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