The strengthening of Al by Mg solute atoms is investigated using molecular dynamics (MD) studies of single dislocations moving through a field of randomly placed solutes. The MD method permits explicit treatment of "core" effects, dislocation pinning and deceleration, and dislocation unpinning by thermal activation, all under an applied load. Choice of an appropriate MD simulation cell size is assessed using analytic concepts developed by Labusch. The interaction energy of a single Mg atom with straight edge and screw dislocations is computed and compared with continuum models. Using the single Mg energies, a one-dimensional energy landscape for the motion of a straight edge dislocation through a random field of Mg solutes is computed. The minima in this landscape match well with those found in the MD simulations at zero temperature. The stress to unpin a straight edge dislocation trapped in a local energy minimum generated by the solutes is then predicted semi-analytically using the energy landscape, and good agreement is obtained with the MD results. At temperatures of 300 and 500 K, the thermally activated rate of unpinning vs. stress and temperature is calculated semi-analytically, and agreement with the full MD results is again obtained with the fitting of a single attempt frequency in a transition state model. The agreement of the semi-analytical models provides a basis for calculating yield stress vs. strain rate and temperature, resulting from statistical pinning, for the case of non-interacting dislocations on a single slip system, and for extending the analysis to study dynamic strain aging effects resulting from diffusion of Mg atoms around a pinned dislocation. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.