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SchNetPack - Deep Neural Networks for Atomistic Systems

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SchNetPack is a toolbox for the development and application of deep neural networks to the prediction of potential energy surfaces and other quantum-chemical properties of molecules and materials. It contains basic building blocks of atomistic neural networks, manages their training and provides simple access to common benchmark datasets. This allows for an easy implementation and evaluation of new models.

The documentation can be found here.

  • SchNet - an end-to-end continuous-filter CNN for molecules and materials [1-3]
  • PaiNN - equivariant message-passing for molecules and materials [4]
  • Output modules for dipole moments, polarizability, stress, and general response properties
  • Modules for electrostatics, Ewald summation, ZBL repulsion
  • GPU-accelerated molecular dynamics code incl. path-integral MD, thermostats, barostats


Install with pip

The simplest way to install SchNetPack is through pip which will automatically get the source code from PyPI:

pip install schnetpack

Install from source

You can also install the most recent code from our repository:

git clone
cd schnetpack
pip install .

Visualization with Tensorboard

SchNetPack supports multiple logging backends via PyTorch Lightning. The default logger is Tensorboard. SchNetPack also supports TensorboardX.

Getting started

The best place to get started is training a SchNetPack model on a common benchmark dataset via the command line interface (CLI). When installing SchNetPack, the training script spktrain is added to your PATH. The CLI uses Hydra and is based on the PyTorch Lightning/Hydra template that can be found here. This enables a flexible configuration of the model, data and training process. To fully take advantage of these features, it might be helpful to have a look at the Hydra and PyTorch Lightning docs.

Example 1: QM9

In the following, we focus on using the CLI to train on the QM9 dataset, but the same procedure applies for the other benchmark datasets as well. First, create a working directory, where all data and runs will be stored:

mkdir spk_workdir
cd spk_workdir

Then, the training of a SchNet model with default settings for QM9 can be started by:

spktrain experiment=qm9_atomwise

The script prints the defaults for the experiment config qm9_atomwise. The dataset will be downloaded automatically to spk_workdir/data, if it does not exist yet. Then, the training will be started.

All values of the config can be changed from the command line, including the directories for run and data. By default, the model is stored in a directory with a unique run id hash as a subdirectory of spk_workdir/runs. This can be changed as follows:

spktrain experiment=qm9_atomwise run.data_dir=/my/data/dir run.path=~/all_my_runs

If you call spktrain experiment=qm9_atomwise --help, you can see the full config with all the parameters that can be changed. Nested parameters can be changed as follows:

spktrain experiment=qm9_atomwise run.data_dir=<path> data.batch_size=64

Hydra organizes parameters in config groups which allows hierarchical configurations consisting of multiple yaml files. This allows to easily change the whole dataset, model or representation. For instance, changing from the default SchNet representation to PaiNN, use:

spktrain experiment=qm9_atomwise run.data_dir=<path> model/representation=painn

It is a bit confusing at first when to use "." or "/". The slash is used, if you are loading a preconfigured config group, while the dot is used changing individual values. For example, the config group "model/representation" corresponds to the following part of the config:

        _target_: schnetpack.representation.PaiNN
        n_atom_basis: 128
        n_interactions: 3
        shared_interactions: false
        shared_filters: false
          _target_: schnetpack.nn.radial.GaussianRBF
          n_rbf: 20
          cutoff: ${globals.cutoff}
          _target_: schnetpack.nn.cutoff.CosineCutoff
          cutoff: ${globals.cutoff}

If you would want to additionally change some value of this group, you could use:

spktrain experiment=qm9_atomwise run.data_dir=<path> model/representation=painn model.representation.n_interactions=5

For more details on config groups, have a look at the Hydra docs.

Example 2: Potential energy surfaces

The example above uses AtomisticModel internally, which is a pytorch_lightning.LightningModule, to predict single properties. The following example will use the same class to predict potential energy surfaces, in particular energies with the appropriate derivates to obtain forces and stress tensors. This works since the pre-defined configuration for the MD17 dataset, provided from the command line by experiment=md17, is selecting the representation and output modules that AtomisticModel is using. A more detailed description of the configuration and how to build your custom configs can be found here.

The spktrain script can be used to train a model for a molecule from the MD17 datasets

spktrain experiment=md17 data.molecule=uracil

In the case of MD17, reference calculations of energies and forces are available. Therefore, one needs to set weights for the losses of those properties. The losses are defined as part of output definitions in the task config group:

        - _target_: schnetpack.task.ModelOutput
          name: ${globals.energy_key}
            _target_: torch.nn.MSELoss
              _target_: torchmetrics.regression.MeanAbsoluteError
              _target_: torchmetrics.regression.MeanSquaredError
          loss_weight: 0.005
        - _target_: schnetpack.task.ModelOutput
          name: ${globals.forces_key}
            _target_: torch.nn.MSELoss
              _target_: torchmetrics.regression.MeanAbsoluteError
              _target_: torchmetrics.regression.MeanSquaredError
          loss_weight: 0.995

For a training on energies* and forces, we recommend to put a stronger weight on the loss of the force prediction during training. By default, the loss weights are set to 0.005 for the energy and 0.995 for forces. This can be changed as follow:

spktrain experiment=md17 data.molecule=uracil task.outputs.0.loss_weight=0.005 task.outputs.1.loss_weight=0.995


Beyond the output of the command line, SchNetPack supports multiple logging backends over PyTorch Lightning. By default, the Tensorboard logger is activated. If TensorBoard is installed, the results can be shown by calling:

tensorboard --logdir=<rundir>

Furthermore, SchNetPack comes with configs for a CSV logger and Aim. These can be selected as follows:

spktrain experiment=md17 logger=csv

LAMMPS interface

SchNetPack comes with an interface to LAMMPS. A detailed installation guide is linked in the How-To section of our documentation.


SchNetPack can be used as a base for implementations of advanced atomistic neural networks and training tasks. For example, there exists an extension package called schnetpack-gschnet for the most recent version of cG-SchNet [5], a conditional generative model for molecules. It demonstrates how a complex training task can be implemented in a few custom classes while leveraging the hierarchical configuration and automated training procedure of the SchNetPack framework.


If you are using SchNetPack in your research, please cite:

K.T. Schütt, S.S.P. Hessmann, N.W.A. Gebauer, J. Lederer, M. Gastegger. SchNetPack 2.0: A neural network toolbox for atomistic machine learning. J. Chem. Phys. 2023, 158 (14): 144801. 10.1063/5.0138367.

K.T. Schütt, P. Kessel, M. Gastegger, K. Nicoli, A. Tkatchenko, K.-R. Müller. SchNetPack: A Deep Learning Toolbox For Atomistic Systems. J. Chem. Theory Comput. 2019, 15 (1): 448-455. 10.1021/acs.jctc.8b00908.

    author = {Sch{\"u}tt, Kristof T. and Hessmann, Stefaan S. P. and Gebauer, Niklas W. A. and Lederer, Jonas and Gastegger, Michael},
    title = "{SchNetPack 2.0: A neural network toolbox for atomistic machine learning}",
    journal = {The Journal of Chemical Physics},
    volume = {158},
    number = {14},
    pages = {144801},
    year = {2023},
    month = {04},
    issn = {0021-9606},
    doi = {10.1063/5.0138367},
    url = {},
    eprint = {\_1\_5.0138367.pdf},
    author = {Sch{\"u}tt, Kristof T. and Kessel, Pan and Gastegger, Michael and Nicoli, Kim A. and Tkatchenko, Alexandre and Müller, Klaus-Robert},
    title = "{SchNetPack: A Deep Learning Toolbox For Atomistic Systems}",
    journal = {Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation},
    volume = {15},
    number = {1},
    pages = {448-455},
    year = {2019},
    doi = {10.1021/acs.jctc.8b00908},
    URL = {},
    eprint = {},


CLI and hydra configs for PyTorch Lightning are adapted from this template:


  • [1] K.T. Schütt. F. Arbabzadah. S. Chmiela, K.-R. Müller, A. Tkatchenko. Quantum-chemical insights from deep tensor neural networks. Nature Communications 8. 13890 (2017) 10.1038/ncomms13890

  • [2] K.T. Schütt. P.-J. Kindermans, H. E. Sauceda, S. Chmiela, A. Tkatchenko, K.-R. Müller. SchNet: A continuous-filter convolutional neural network for modeling quantum interactions. Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 30, pp. 992-1002 (2017) Paper

  • [3] K.T. Schütt. P.-J. Kindermans, H. E. Sauceda, S. Chmiela, A. Tkatchenko, K.-R. Müller. SchNet - a deep learning architecture for molecules and materials. The Journal of Chemical Physics 148(24), 241722 (2018) 10.1063/1.5019779

  • [4] K. T. Schütt, O. T. Unke, M. Gastegger Equivariant message passing for the prediction of tensorial properties and molecular spectra. International Conference on Machine Learning (pp. 9377-9388). PMLR, Paper.

  • [5] N. W. A. Gebauer, M. Gastegger, S. S. P. Hessmann, K.-R. Müller, K. T. Schütt Inverse design of 3d molecular structures with conditional generative neural networks. Nature Communications 13. 973 (2022) 10.1038/s41467-022-28526-y