Journal article

Why are the Interaction Energies of Charge-Transfer Complexes Challenging for DFT?

The description of ground state charge-transfer complexes is highly challenging. Illustrative examples include large overestimations of charge-transfer by local and semi-local density functional approximations as well as inaccurate binding energies. It is demonstrated here that standard density functionals fail to accurately describe interaction energies of charge-transfer complexes not only because of the missing long-range exchange as generally assumed, but also as a result of the neglect of weak interactions. Thus accounting for the missing van der Waals interactions is of key importance. These assertions, based on the evaluation of the extent of stabilization due to dispersion using both DFT coupled with our recent density-dependent dispersion correction (dDsC) and high-level ab initio computations, reflect the imperfect error-cancellation between the overestimation of charge-transfer and the missing long-range interactions. An in-depth energy decomposition analysis of an illustrative series of four small ambidentate molecules (HCN, HNC, HF and ClF) bound together with NF3 provides the main conclusions, which are validated on a prototypical organic charge-transfer complex (i.e., tetrathiafulvalene-tetracyanoquinodimethane, TTF-TCNQ). We establish that the interaction energies for charge-transfer complexes can only be properly described when using well-balanced functionals such as PBE0-dDsC, M06-2X and LC-BOP-LRD.


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