Despite its prominent contribution to the free energy of solvated macromolecules such as proteins or DNA, and although principally contained within molecular dynamics simulations, the entropy of the solvation shell is inaccessible to straightforward application of established entropy estimation methods. The complication is twofold. First, the configurational space density of such systems is too complex for a sufficiently accurate fit. Second, and in contrast to the internal macromolecular dynamics, the configurational space volume explored by the diffusive motion of the solvent molecules is too large to be exhaustively sampled by current simulation techniques. Here, we develop a method to overcome the second problem and to significantly alleviate the first one. We propose to exploit the permutation symmetry of the solvent by transforming the trajectory in a way that renders established estimation methods applicable, such as the quasiharmonic approximation or principal component analysis. Our permutation-reduced approach involves a combinatorial problem, which is solved through its equivalence with the linear assignment problem, for which O(N3) methods exist. From test simulations of dense Lennard-Jones gases, enhanced convergence and improved entropy estimates are obtained. Moreover, our approach renders diffusive systems accessible to improved fit functions.

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