Assigning effective atomic charges that properly reproduce the electrostatic fields of molecules is a crucial step in the construction of accurate interatomic potentials. We propose a new approach to calculate these charges, which as previous approaches are, is based on the idea of charge equilibration. However, we only allow charge to flow between covalently bonded neighbors by using the concept of so-called split charges. The semiempirical fit parameters in our approach do not only reflect atomic properties (electronegativity and atomic hardness) but also bond-dependent properties. The new method contains two popular but hitherto disjunct approaches as limiting cases. We apply our methodology to a set of molecules containing the elements silicon, carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Effective charges derived from electrostatic potential surfaces can be predicted more than twice as accurately as with previous works, at the expense of one additional fit parameter per bond type controlling the polarizability between two bonded atoms. Additional bond-type parameters can be introduced, but barely improve the results. An increase in accuracy of only 30% over existing techniques is achieved when predicting Mulliken charges. However, this could be improved with additional bond-type parameters.

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