Assessment of the accuracy of density functionals for prediction of relative energies and geometries of low-lying isomers of water hexamers

Erin E. Dahlke, Ryan M. Olson, Hannah R. Leverentz, Donald G. Truhlar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

126 Scopus citations


Water hexamers provide a critical testing ground for validating potential energy surface predictions because they contain structural motifs not present in smaller clusters. We tested the ability of 11 density functionals (four of which are local and seven of which are nonlocal) to accurately predict the relative energies of a series of low-lying water hexamers, relative to the CCSD(T)/aug′-cc-pVTZ level of theory, where CCSD(T) denotes coupled cluster theory with an interative treatment of single and double excitations and a quasi-perturbative treatment of connected triple excitations. Five of the density functionals were tested with two different basis sets, making a total of 16 levels of density functional theory (DFT) tested. When single-point energy calculations are carried out on geometries obtained with second-order Møller-Plesset perturbation theory (MP2), only three density functionals, M06-L, M05-2X, and M06-2X, are able to correctly predict the relative energy ordering of the hexamers. These three functionals predict that the range of energies spanned by the six isomers is 3.2-5.6 kcal/mol, whereas the other eight functionals predict ranges of 1.0-2.4 kcal/mol; the benchmark value for this range is 3.1 kcal/mol. When the hexamers are optimized at each level of theory, all methods are able to reproduce the MP2 geometries well for all isomers except the boat and bag isomers, and DFT optimization changes the energy ordering for seven of the 16 methods tested. The addition of zero-point energy changes the energy ordering for all of the density functionals studied except for M05-2X and M06-2X. The variation in relative energies predicted by the different methods highlights the necessity for exercising caution in the choice of density functionals used in future studies. Of the 11 density functionals tested, the most accurate results for energies were obtained with the PWB6K, MPWB1K, and M05-2X functionals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3976-3984
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number17
StatePublished - May 1 2008

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