ConspectusAb initio modeling of matter has become a pillar of chemical research: with ever-increasing computational power, simulations can be used to accurately predict, for example, chemical reaction rates, electronic and mechanical properties of materials, and dynamical properties of liquids. Many competing quantum mechanical methods have been developed over the years that vary in computational cost, accuracy, and scalability: density functional theory (DFT), the workhorse of solid-state electronic structure calculations, features a good compromise between accuracy and speed. However, approximate exchange-correlation functionals limit DFT's ability to treat certain phenomena or states of matter, such as charge-transfer processes or strongly correlated materials. Furthermore, conventional DFT is purely a ground-state theory: electronic excitations are beyond its scope. Excitations in molecules are routinely calculated using time-dependent DFT linear response; however applications to condensed matter are still limited.By contrast, many-electron wavefunction methods aim for a very accurate treatment of electronic exchange and correlation. Unfortunately, the associated computational cost renders treatment of more than a handful of heavy atoms challenging. On the other side of the accuracy spectrum, parametrized approaches like tight-binding can treat millions of atoms. In view of the different (dis-)advantages of each method, the simulation of complex systems seems to force a compromise: one is limited to the most accurate method that can still handle the problem size. For many interesting problems, however, compromise proves insufficient. A possible solution is to break up the system into manageable subsystems that may be treated by different computational methods. The interaction between subsystems may be handled by an embedding formalism.In this Account, we review embedded correlated wavefunction (CW) approaches and some applications. We first discuss our density functional embedding theory, which is formally exact. We show how to determine the embedding potential, which replaces the interaction between subsystems, at the DFT level. CW calculations are performed using a fixed embedding potential, that is, a non-self-consistent embedding scheme. We demonstrate this embedding theory for two challenging electron transfer phenomena: (1) initial oxidation of an aluminum surface and (2) hot-electron-mediated dissociation of hydrogen molecules on a gold surface. In both cases, the interaction between gas molecules and metal surfaces were treated by sophisticated CW techniques, with the remainder of the extended metal surface being treated by DFT. Our embedding approach overcomes the limitations of conventional Kohn-Sham DFT in describing charge transfer, multiconfigurational character, and excited states. From these embedding simulations, we gained important insights into fundamental processes that are crucial aspects of fuel cell catalysis (i.e., O2 reduction at metal surfaces) and plasmon-mediated photocatalysis by metal nanoparticles. Moreover, our findings agree very well with experimental observations, while offering new views into the chemistry. We finally discuss our recently formulated potential-functional embedding theory that provides a seamless, first-principles way to include back-action onto the environment from the embedded region.
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