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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Dec;1006:235-51.

The appropriateness of density-functional theory for the calculation of molecular electronics properties.

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School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


As molecular electronics advances, efficient and reliable computation procedures are required for the simulation of the atomic structures of actual devices, as well as for the prediction of their electronic properties. Density-functional theory (DFT) has had widespread success throughout chemistry and solid-state physics, and it offers the possibility of fulfilling these roles. In its modern form it is an empirically parameterized approach that cannot be extended toward exact solutions in a prescribed way, ab initio. Thus, it is essential that the weaknesses of the method be identified and likely shortcomings anticipated in advance. We consider four known systematic failures of modern DFT: dispersion, charge transfer, extended pi conjugation, and bond cleavage. Their ramifications for molecular electronics applications are outlined and we suggest that great care is required when using modern DFT to partition charge flow across electrode-molecule junctions, screen applied electric fields, position molecular orbitals with respect to electrode Fermi energies, and in evaluating the distance dependence of through-molecule conductivity. The causes of these difficulties are traced to errors inherent in the types of density functionals in common use, associated with their inability to treat very long-range electron correlation effects. Heuristic enhancements of modern DFT designed to eliminate individual problems are outlined, as are three new schemes that each represent significant departures from modern DFT implementations designed to provide a priori improvements in at least one and possible all problem areas. Finally, fully semiempirical schemes based on both Hartree-Fock and Kohn-Sham theory are described that, in the short term, offer the means to avoid the inherent problems of modern DFT and, in the long term, offer competitive accuracy at dramatically reduced computational costs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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