Journal of Computer-Aided Materials Design

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 111-129

Born–Oppenheimer Interatomic Forces from Simple, Local Kinetic Energy Density Functionals

  • V. V. KarasievAffiliated withQuantum Theory Project, Departments of Physics and of Chemistry, University of FloridaCentro de Química, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, IVIC Email author 
  • , S. B. TrickeyAffiliated withQuantum Theory Project, Departments of Physics and of Chemistry, University of Florida
  • , Frank E. HarrisAffiliated withQuantum Theory Project, Departments of Physics and of Chemistry, University of FloridaDepartment of Physics, University of Utah

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Rapid calculation of Born–Oppenheimer (B–O) forces is essential for driving the so-called quantum region of a multi-scale molecular dynamics simulation. The success of density functional theory (DFT) with modern exchange-correlation approximations makes DFT an appealing choice for this role. But conventional Kohn–Sham DFT, even with various linear-scaling implementations, really is not fast enough to meet the challenge of complicated chemo-mechanical phenomena (e.g. stress-induced cracking in the presence of a solvent). Moreover, those schemes involve approximations that are difficult to check practically or to validate formally. A popular alternative, Car-Parrinello dynamics, does not guarantee motion on the B–O surface. Another approach, orbital-free DFT, is appealing but has proven difficult to implement because of the challenge of constructing reliable orbital-free (OF) approximations to the kinetic energy (KE) functional. To be maximally useful for multi-scale simulations, an OF-KE functional must be local (i.e. one-point). This requirement eliminates the two-point functionals designed to have proper linear-response behavior in the weakly inhomogeneous limit. In the face of these difficulties, we demonstrate that there is a way forward. By requiring only that the approximate functional deliver high-quality forces, by exploiting the “conjointness” hypothesis of Lee, Lee, and Parr, by enforcing a basic positivity constraint, and by parameterizing to a carefully selected, small set of molecules we are able to generate a KE functional that does a good job of describing various H q Si m O n clusters as well as CO (providing encouraging evidence of transferability). In addition to that positive result, we discuss several major negative results. First is definitive proof that the conjointness hypothesis is not correct, but nevertheless is useful. The second is the failure of a considerable variety of published KE functionals of the generalized gradient approximation type. Those functionals yield no minimum on the energy surface and give completely incorrect forces. In all cases, the problem can be traced to incorrect behavior of the functionals near the nuclei. Third, the seemingly obvious strategy of direct numerical fitting of OF-KE functional parameters to reproduce the energy surface of selected molecules is unsuccessful. The functionals that result are completely untransferable.


density functional theory forces orbital-free kinetic energy conjointness