Can orbital-free density functional theory simulate molecules

Junchao Xia, Chen Huang, Ilgyou Shin, Emily A. Carter

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Orbital-free density functional theory (OFDFT), with its attractive linearly scaling computation cost and low prefactor, is one of the most powerful first principles methods for simulating large systems (∼10 4-10 6 atoms). However, approximating the electron kinetic energy with density functionals limits the accuracy and generality of OFDFT compared to Kohn-Sham density functional theory (KSDFT). In this work, we test whether the Huang-Carter (HC) kinetic energy density functional (KEDF), which contains the physics to properly describe covalently bonded semiconductor materials, can also be used to describe covalent bonds in molecules. In particular, we calculate a variety of homonuclear diatomic molecules with the HC functional within OFDFT. The OFDFT bond dissociation energy, equilibrium bond length, and vibrational frequency of these dimers are in remarkably good agreement with benchmark KSDFT results, given the lack of orbitals in the calculation. We vary the two parameters (controlling the reduced density gradient contribution to the nonlocal kernel) and (the exponent of the density in the nonlocal term) present in the HC KEDF and find that the optimal correlates with the magnitude of the highest occupied molecular orbital - lowest unoccupied molecular orbital energy gap. Although the HC KEDF represents a significant improvement over previous KEDFs in describing covalent systems, deficiencies still exist. Despite the similar overall shape of the KSDFT and OFDFT ground state electron densities, the electron density within the bonding region is still quite different. Furthermore, OFDFT is not yet able to give reasonable description of magnetic states. The energy orderings of the triplet and singlet states of Si 2 and Al family dimers are not consistent with KSDFT or experimental results and the spin polarization distributions also differ widely between the two theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number084102
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 28 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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