Bond breaking in stretched molecules: multi-reference methods versus density functional theory

  • Gary S. KedzioraEmail author
  • Stephen A. Barr
  • Rajiv Berry
  • James C. Moller
  • Timothy D. Breitzman
Regular Article


Several quantum chemistry methods were compared for modeling the breaking of bonds in small molecules subjected to extreme strain. This provides a rigorous test of quantum mechanical methods because a high degree of dynamical and non-dynamical correlation is required to accurately model bond breaking in a strained molecule. The methods tested included multi-reference methods, unrestricted Kohn–Sham density functional theory (DFT) using several functionals, and unrestricted coupled-cluster singles and doubles. It is challenging to employ the multi-reference method in a balanced way for the molecules considered due to the computational cost. While the DFT methods are less costly and provide balanced correlation, they do not have enough static correlation to properly model the bond-breaking curve to dissociation. Despite this, for the N12 DFT method the artifacts due to spin contamination of the unrestricted Kohn–Sham method were the least severe and tolerable. Given this, and the low computational cost, the N12 method was chosen for subsequent dynamical simulations for modeling fracture inception in polymers under extreme strain. The physical characteristics of the bond-breaking process are discussed as well as the influence of secondary conjugation on the process.


Multi-reference methods Bond breaking Density functionals Kohn–Sham DFT Mechanochemistry 



The Air Force Office of Scientific Research under project number 14RX09COR supported the project. The authors would also like to thank the DoD HPCMP’s User Productivity Enhancement, Technology Transfer, and Training (PETTT) Program (Contract No.: GS04T09DBC0017 through Engility Corp.) for support, and the AFRL DSRC for computer time and software support.

Supplementary material

214_2016_1822_MOESM1_ESM.docx (394 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 394 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary S. Kedziora
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stephen A. Barr
    • 2
  • Rajiv Berry
    • 2
  • James C. Moller
    • 2
    • 3
  • Timothy D. Breitzman
    • 2
  1. 1.Air Force Research LaboratoryEngility Corp.WPAFB, DaytonUSA
  2. 2.Air Force Research LaboratoryMaterials and Manufacturing DirectorateWPAFB, DaytonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing EngineeringMiami UniversityOxfordUSA

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