DeficienciesAll force fields are based on numerous approximations and derived from different types of experimental data. Therefore they are called empirical. Some existing force fields do not account for electronic polarization of the environment, an effect that can significantly reduce electrostatic interactions of partial atomic charges. This problem was addressed by developing “polarizable force fields” or using macroscopic dielectric constant. However, application of a single value of dielectric constant is questionable in the highly heterogeneous environments of proteins or biological membranes, and the nature of the dielectric depends on the model used .
All types of van der Waals forces are also strongly environment-dependent, because these forces originate from interactions of induced and “instantaneous” dipoles (see Intermolecular force). The original Fritz London theory of these forces can only be applied in vacuum. A more general theory of van der Waals forces in condensed media was developed by A. D. McLachlan in 1963 (this theory includes the original London’s approach as a special case) . The McLachlan theory predicts that van der Waals attractions in media are weaker than in vacuum and follow the "like dissolves like" rule, which means that different types of atoms interact more weakly than identical types of atoms.. This is in contrast to “combinatorial rules” or Slater-Kirkwood equation applied for development of the classical force fields. The “combinatorial rules” state that interaction energy of two dissimilar atoms (e.g. C…N) is an average of the interaction energies of corresponding identical atom pairs (i.e. C…C and N…N). According to McLachlan theory, the interactions of particles in a media can even be completely repulsive, as observed for liquid helium . The conclusions of McLachlan theory are supported by direct measurements of attraction forces between different materials (Hamaker constant), as explained by Jacob Israelachvili in his book "Intermolecular and surface forces". It was concluded that "the interaction between hydrocarbons across water is about 10% of that across vacuum" . Such effects are unaccounted in the standard molecular mechanics.