Benchmarking Density Functionals for Chemical Bonds of Gold

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Gold plays a major role in nanochemistry, catalysis, and electrochemistry. Accordingly, hundreds of studies apply density functionals to study chemical bonding with gold, yet there is no systematic attempt to assess the accuracy of these methods applied to gold. This paper reports a benchmark against 51 experimental bond enthalpies of AuX systems and seven additional polyatomic and cationic molecules. Twelve density functionals were tested, covering meta functionals, hybrids with variable HF exchange, double-hybrid, dispersion-corrected, and nonhybrid GGA functionals. The defined benchmark data set probes all types of bonding to gold from very electronegative halides that force Au+ electronic structure, via covalently bonded systems, hard and soft Lewis acids and bases that either work against or complement the softness of gold, the Au2 molecule probing gold's bond with itself, and weak bonds between gold and noble gases. Zero-point vibrational corrections are relatively small for Au-X bonds, ∼ 11-12 kJ/mol except for Au-H bonds. Dispersion typically provides ∼5 kJ/mol of the total bond enthalpy but grows with system size and is 10 kJ/mol for AuXe and AuKr. HF exchange and LYP correlation produce weaker bonds to gold. Most functionals provide similar trend accuracy, though somewhat lower for M06 and M06L, but very different numerical accuracy. Notably, PBE and TPSS functionals with dispersion display the smallest numerical errors and very small mean signed errors (0-6 kJ/mol), i.e. no bias toward over- or under-binding. Errors are evenly distributed versus atomic number, suggesting that relativistic effects are treated fairly; the mean absolute error is almost halved from B3LYP (45 kJ/mol) to TPSS and PBE (23 kJ/mol, including difficult cases); 23 kJ/mol is quite respectable considering the diverse bonds to gold and the complication of relativistic effects. Thus, studies that use DFT with effective core potentials for gold chemistry, with no alternative due to computational cost, are on solid ground using TPSS-D3 or PBE-D3.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry Part A: Molecules, Spectroscopy, Kinetics, Environment and General Theory
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)2022-2034
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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