Density Functional Geometries and Zero-Point Energies in Ab Initio Thermochemical Treatments of Compounds with First-Row Atoms (H, C, N, O, F)

Dirk Bakowies, O. Anatole von Lilienfeld

Density functionals are often used in ab initio thermochemistry to provide optimized geometries for single-point evaluations at a high level and to supply estimates of anharmonic zero-point energies (ZPEs). Their use is motivated by relatively high accuracy at a modest computational expense, but a thorough assessment of geometry-related error seems to be lacking. We have benchmarked 53 density functionals, focusing on approximations of the first four rungs and on relatively small basis sets for computational efficiency. Optimized geometries of 279 neutral first-row molecules (H, C, N, O, F) are judged by energy penalties relative to the best available geometries, using the composite model ATOMIC/B5 as energy probe. Only hybrid functionals provide good accuracy with root-mean-square errors around 0.1 kcal/mol and maximum errors below 1.0 kcal/mol, but not all of them do. Conspicuously, first-generation hybrids with few or no empirical parameters tend to perform better than highly parameterized ones. A number of them show good accuracy already with small basis sets (6-31G(d), 6-311G(d)). As is standard practice, anharmonic ZPEs are estimated from scaled harmonic values. Statistics of the latter show less performance variation among functionals than observed for geometry-related error, but they also indicate that ZPE error will generally dominate. We have selected PBE0-D3/6311G(d) for the next version of the ATOMIC protocol (ATOMIC-2) and studied it in more detail. Empirical expressions have been calibrated to estimate bias corrections and 95% uncertainty intervals for both geometry-related error and scaled ZPEs.

Computational Materials Physics
External organisation(s)
Universität Basel
Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
104017 Physical chemistry, 103018 Materials physics
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