Multiconfiguration pair-density functional theory: A new way to treat strongly correlated systems

Laura Gagliardi, Donald G. Truhlar, Giovanni Li Manni, Rebecca K. Carlson, Chad E. Hoyer, Junwei Lucas Bao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

98 Scopus citations


CONSPECTUS: The electronic energy of a system provides the Born-Oppenheimer potential energy for internuclear motion and thus determines molecular structure and spectra, bond energies, conformational energies, reaction barrier heights, and vibrational frequencies. The development of more efficient and more accurate ways to calculate the electronic energy of systems with inherently multiconfigurational electronic structure is essential for many applications, including transition metal and actinide chemistry, systems with partially broken bonds, many transition states, and most electronically excited states. Inherently multiconfigurational systems are called strongly correlated systems or multireference systems, where the latter name refers to the need for using more than one ("multiple") configuration state function to provide a good zero-order reference wave function. This Account describes multiconfiguration pair-density functional theory (MC-PDFT), which was developed as a way to combine the advantages of wave function theory (WFT) and density functional theory (DFT) to provide a better treatment of strongly correlated systems. First we review background material: the widely used Kohn-Sham DFT (which uses only a single Slater determinant as reference wave function), multiconfiguration WFT methods that treat inherently multiconfigurational systems based on an active space, and previous attempts to combine multiconfiguration WFT with DFT. Then we review the formulation of MC-PDFT. It is a generalization of Kohn-Sham DFT in that the electron kinetic energy and classical electrostatic energy are calculated from a reference wave function, while the rest of the energy is obtained from a density functional. However, there are two main differences with respent to Kohn-Sham DFT: (i) The reference wave function is multiconfigurational rather than being a single Slater determinant. (ii) The density functional is a function of the total density and the on-top pair density rather than being a function of the spin-up and spin-down densities. In work carried out so far, the multiconfigurational wave function is a multiconfiguration self-consistent-field wave function. The new formulation has the advantage that the reference wave function has the correct spatial and spin symmetry and can describe bond dissociation (of both single and multiple bonds) and electronic excitations in a formally and physically correct way. We then review the formulation of density functionals in terms of the on-top pair density. Finally we review successful applications of the theory to bond energies and bond dissociation potential energy curves of main-group and transition metal bonds, to barrier heights (including pericyclic reactions), to proton affinities, to the hydrogen bond energy of water dimer, to ground-and excited-state charge transfer, to valence and Rydberg excitations of molecules, and to singlet-triplet splittings of radicals. We find that that MC-PDFT can give accurate results not only with complete-active-space multiconfiguration wave functions but also with generalized-active-space multiconfiguration wave functions, which are practical for larger numbers of active electrons and active orbitals than are complete-active-space wave functions. The separated-pair approximation, which is a special case of generalized active space self-consistent-field theory, is especially promising. MC-PDFT, because it requires much less computer time and storage than pure WFT methods, has the potential to open larger and more complex strongly correlated systems to accurate simulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-73
Number of pages8
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

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