Archive for the 'DFT' Category

More DFT benchmarking

Selecting the appropriate density functional for one’s molecular system at hand is often a very confounding problem, especially for non-expert or first-time users of computational chemistry. The DFT zoo is vast and confusing, and perhaps what makes the situation worse is that there is no lack of benchmarking studies. For example, I have made more than 30 posts on benchmark studies, and I made no attempt to be comprehensive over the past dozen years!

One such benchmark study that I missed was presented by Mardirossian and Head-Gordon in 2017.1 They evaluated 200 density functional using the MGCDB84 database, a combination of data from a number of different groups. They make a series of recommendations for local GGA, local meta-GGA, hybrid GGA, and hybrid meta-GGA functionals. And when pressed to choose just one functional overall, they opt for ωB97M-V, a range-separated hybrid meta-GGA with VV10 nonlocal correlation.

Georigk and Mehta2 just recently offer a review of the density functional zoo. Leaning heavily on benchmark studies using the GMTKN553 database, they report a number of observations. Of no surprise to readers of this blog, their main conclusion is that accounting for London dispersion is essential, usually through some type of correction like those proposed by Grimme.

These authors also note the general disparity between the most accurate, best performing functional per the benchmark studies and the results of the DFT poll conducted for many years by Swart, Bickelhaupt and Duran. It is somewhat remarkable that PBE or PBE0 have topped the poll for many years, despite the fact that many newer functionals perform better. As always, when choosing a functional caveat emptor.


1.  Mardirossian, N.; Head-Gordon, M., “Thirty years of density functional theory in computational chemistry: an overview and extensive assessment of 200 density functionals.” Mol. Phys. 2017, 115, 2315-2372, DOI: 10.1080/00268976.2017.1333644.

2. Goerigk, L.; Mehta, N., “A Trip to the Density Functional Theory Zoo: Warnings and Recommendations for the User.” Aust. J. Chem. 2019, ASAP, DOI: 10.1071/CH19023.

3. Goerigk, L.; Hansen, A.; Bauer, C.; Ehrlich, S.; Najibi, A.; Grimme, S., “A look at the density functional theory zoo with the advanced GMTKN55 database for general main group thermochemistry, kinetics and noncovalent interactions.” Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 2017, 19, 32184-32215, DOI: 10.1039/C7CP04913G.

DFT Steven Bachrach 18 Mar 2019 No Comments

Electrocycic reactions of cethrene derivatives

Pericyclic reactions remain a fruitful area of research despite the seminal publication of the Woodward-Hoffmann rules decades ago. Here are two related papers of pericyclic reactions that violate the Woodward-Hoffmann rules.

First, Solomek, Ravat, Mou, Kertesz, and Jurícek reported on the thermal and photochemical electrocyclization reaction of diphenylcetherene 1a.1 Though they were not able to directly detect the intermediate 2, through careful examination of the photochemical reaction, they were able to infer that the thermal cyclization goes via the formally forbidden conrotatory pathway (see Scheme 1).

Scheme 2.

Kinetic studies estimate the activation barrier is 14.1 kcal mol-1. They performed DFT computations of the parent 1b using a variety of functionals with both restricted and unrestricted wavefunctions. The allowed pathway to 2syn is predicted to be greater than 27 kcal mol-1, while the formally forbidden pathway to 2anti is estimated to have a lower barrier of about 23 kcal mol-1. The two transition states for these different pathways are shown in Figure 1, and the sterics that force a helical structure to 1 help make the forbidden pathway more favorable.



Figure 1. (U)B3LYP/6-31G optimized geometries of the transition states taking 1 into 2.

Nonetheless, all of the DFT computations significantly overestimate the activation barrier. The authors make the case that a low-lying singlet excited state results in an early conical intersection that reduces the symmetry from C2 to C1. In this lower symmetry pathway, all of the states can mix, leading to a lower barrier. However, since DFT is intrinsically a single Slater configuration, the mixing of the other states is not accounted for, leading to the overestimated barrier height.

In a follow up study, this group examined the thermal and photo cyclization of 13,14-dimethylcethrene 4.2 The added methyl groups make the centhrene backbone more helical, and this precludes the formal allowed disrotatory process. The methyl groups also prohibit the oxidation that occurs with 1, driven by aromatization, allowing for the isolation of the direct product of the cyclization 5. This anti stereochemistry is confirmed by NMR and x-ray crystallography. The interconversion between 4 and 5 can be controlled by heat and light, making the system an interesting photoswitch.

Also of interest is the singlet-triplet gap of 1 and 4. The DFT computed ΔEST is about 10 kcal mol-1 for 4, larger than the computed value of 6 kcal mol-1 for 1b. The EPR of 1b does show a signal while that of 4 has no signal. To assess the role of the methyl group, they computed the singlet triplet gaps for 1b and 4 at two different geometries: where the distance between the carbons bearing the methyl groups is that in 1b (3.03 Å) and in 4 (3.37 Å). The lengthening of this distance by the methyl substituents is due to increased helical twist in 4 than in 1b. For 1b, the gap increases with twisting, from 7.1 to 8.3 kcal mol-1, while for 4 the gap increases by 1.8 kcal mol-1 with the increased twisting. This change is less than the effect of methyl substitution, which increases the gap by 2.2 kcal mol-1 at the shorter distance and 2.8 kcal mol-1 at the longer distance. Thus, the electronic (orbital) effect of methyl substitution affects the singlet-triplet gap more than the geometric twisting.


1) Šolomek, T.; Ravat, P.; Mou, Z.; Kertesz, M.; Juríček, M., "Cethrene: The Chameleon of Woodward–Hoffmann Rules." J. Org. Chem. 2018, 83, 4769-4774, DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.8b00656.

2) Ravat, P.; Šolomek, T.; Häussinger, D.; Blacque, O.; Juríček, M., "Dimethylcethrene: A Chiroptical Diradicaloid Photoswitch." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140, 10839-10847, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b05465.


1b: InChI=1S/C28H16/c1-5-17-7-3-11-23-25(17)19(9-1)15-21-13-14-22-16-20-10-2-6-18-8-4-12-24(26(18)20)28(22)27(21)23/h1-16H

4: InChI=1S/C30H20/c1-17-9-11-19-5-3-7-21-15-23-13-14-24-16-22-8-4-6-20-12-10-18(2)26(28(20)22)30(24)29(23)25(17)27(19)21/h3-16H,1-2H3

5: nChI=1S/C30H20/c1-29-13-11-17-5-3-7-19-15-21-9-10-22-16-20-8-4-6-18-12-14-30(29,2)28(24(18)20)26(22)25(21)27(29)23(17)19/h3-16H,1-2H3/t29-,30-/m0/s1

DFT &electrocyclization Steven Bachrach 05 Dec 2018 No Comments

Long C-C bonds are not caused by crystal packing forces

Schreiner and Grimme have examined a few compounds (see these previous posts) with long C-C bonds that are found in congested systems where dispersion greatly aids in stabilizing the stretched bond. Their new paper1 continues this theme by examining 1 (again) and 2, using computations, and x-ray crystallography and gas-phase rotational spectroscopy and electron diffraction to establish the long C-C bond.

The distance of the long central bond in 1 is 1.647 Å (x-ray) and 1.630 Å (electron diffraction). Similarly, this distance in 2 is 1.642 Å (x-ray) and 1.632 Å (ED). These experiments discount any role for crystal packing forces in leading to the long bond.

A very nice result from the computations is that most functionals that include some dispersion correction predict the C-C distance in the optimized structures with an error of no more than 0.01 Å. (PW6B95-D3/DEF2-QZVP structures are shown in Figure 1.) Not surprisingly, HF and B3LYP without a dispersion correction predict a bond that is too long.) MP2 predicts a distance that is too short, but SCS-MP2 does a very good job.



Figure 1. PW6B95-D3/DEF2-QZVP optimized structures of 1 and 2.


1) Fokin, A. A.; Zhuk, T. S.; Blomeyer, S.; Pérez, C.; Chernish, L. V.; Pashenko, A. E.; Antony, J.; Vishnevskiy, Y. V.; Berger, R. J. F.; Grimme, S.; Logemann, C.; Schnell, M.; Mitzel, N. W.; Schreiner, P. R., "Intramolecular London Dispersion Interaction Effects on Gas-Phase and Solid-State Structures of Diamondoid Dimers." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2017, 139, 16696-16707, DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b07884.


1: InChI=1S/C28H38/c1-13-7-23-19-3-15-4-20(17(1)19)24(8-13)27(23,11-15)28-12-16-5-21-18-2-14(9-25(21)28)10-26(28)22(18)6-16/h13-26H,1-12H2

2: InChI=1S/C26H34O2/c1-11-3-19-15-7-13-9-25(19,21(5-11)23(27-13)17(1)15)26-10-14-8-16-18-2-12(4-20(16)26)6-22(26)24(18)28-14/h11-24H,1-10H2

adamantane &DFT &Grimme &MP &Schreiner Steven Bachrach 25 Jun 2018 1 Comment

Strain-promoted cycloaddition to cyclooctyne

Click chemistry has been used in a broad range of applications. The use of metal catalysts has limited its application to biological system, but the development of strain-promoted cycloaddition to cyclooctyne has opened up click chemistry to bioorthogonal labeling.

An interesting variation on this is the use of 1,2-benzoquinone 1 and substituted analogues as the Diels-Alder diene component. Escorihuela and co-workers have reported on the use of this diene with a number of cyclooctyne derivatives, measuring kinetics and also using computations to assess the mechanism.1

Their computations focused on two reactions using cyclooctyne 2 and the cyclopropane-fused analogue 3:

Reaction 1

Reaction 2

They examined these reactions with a variety of density functionals along with some post-HF methods. The transition states of the two reactions are shown in Figure 1. A variety of different density functionals and MP2 are consistent in finding synchronous or nearly synchronous transition states.



Figure 1. B97D/6-311+G(d,p) transition states for Reactions 1 and 2.

In terms of activation energies, all of the DFT methods consistently overestimate the barrier by about 5-10 kcal mol-1, with B97D-D3 doing the best. MP2 drastically underestimates the barriers, though the SOS-MP2 or SCS-MP2 improve the estimate. Both CCSD(T) and MR-AQCC provide estimates of about 8.5 kcal mol-1, still 3-4 kcal mol-1 too high. The agreement between CCSD(T), a single reference method, and MR-AQCC, a multireference method, indicate that the transition states have little multireference character. Given the reasonable estimate of the barrier afforded by B97D-D3, and its tremendous performance advantage over SCS-MP2, CCSD(T) and MR-AQCC, this is the preferred method (at least with current technology) for examining Diels-Alder reactions like these, especially with larger molecules.


1) Escorihuela, J.; Das, A.; Looijen, W. J. E.; van Delft, F. L.; Aquino, A. J. A.; Lischka, H.; Zuilhof, H., "Kinetics of the Strain-Promoted Oxidation-Controlled Cycloalkyne-1,2-quinone Cycloaddition: Experimental and Theoretical Studies." J. Org. Chem. 2018, 83, 244-252, DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.7b02614.


1: InChI=1S/C6H4O2/c7-5-3-1-2-4-6(5)8/h1-4H

2: InChI=1S/C8H12/c1-2-4-6-8-7-5-3-1/h1-6H2

3: InChI=1S/C9H12/c1-2-4-6-9-7-8(9)5-3-1/h8-9H,3-7H2

4: InChI=1S/C14H16O2/c15-13-11-7-8-12(14(13)16)10-6-4-2-1-3-5-9(10)11/h7-8,11-12H,1-6H2

5: InChI=1S/C15H16O2/c16-14-12-5-6-13(15(14)17)11-4-2-9-7-8(9)1-3-10(11)12/h5-6,8-9,12-13H,1-4,7H2/t8-,9+,12?,13?

cycloadditions &DFT &Diels-Alder Steven Bachrach 19 Feb 2018 1 Comment

Diatomic densities from DFT

I recently blogged about a paper arguing that modern density functional development has strayed from the path of improving density description, in favor of improved energetics. The Medvedev paper1 was met with a number of criticisms. A potential “out” from the conclusions of the work was that perhaps molecular densities do not fare so poorly with more modern functionals, following the argument that better energies might reflect better densities in bonding regions.

The Hammes-Schiffer group have now examined 14 diatomic molecules with the goal of testing just this hypothesis.2 They subjected both homonuclear diatomics, like N2, Cl2, and Li2, and heteronuclear diatomics, like HF, LiF, and SC, to 90 different density functionals using the very large aug-cc-pCVQZ basis set. Using the CCSD density as a reference, they examined the differences in the densities predicted by the various functional both along the internuclear axis and perpendicular to it.

The 20 functionals that do the best job in mimicking the CCSD density are all hybrid GGA functionals, along with the sole double hybrid functional included in the study (B2PLYP). These functionals date from 1993 to 2012. The 20 functionals that do the poorest job include functionals from all rung-types, and date from 1980-2012. A very slight upward trend can be observed in the density error increasing with development year, while the error in the dissociation energy clearly is decreasing over time.

They note that six functionals of the Minnesota-type, those that are highly parameterized and of recent vintage, perform very poorly at predicting atomic densities, but do well with the diatomic densities.

Hammes-Schiffer concludes that their diatomic results support the general trend noted by Medvedev’s atomic results, that density description is lagging in more recently developed functionals. I’d add that this trend is not as dramatic for the diatomics as for atoms.

They pose what is really the key question: “Is the purpose to approximate the exact functional or simply to provide chemists with a useful tool for exploring chemical systems?” Since, as they note, the modern highly parameterized functionals have worked so well for predicting energies and geometries, “the observation that many modern functionals produce incorrect densities could be of no great consequence for many studies”. Nonetheless, “the ultimate goal is still to obtain both accurate densities and accurate energies”.


1) Medvedev, M. G.; Bushmarinov, I. S.; Sun, J.; Perdew, J. P.; Lyssenko, K. A., "Density functional theory is straying from the path toward the exact functional." Science 2017, 355, 49-52, DOI: 10.1126/science.aah5975.

2) Brorsen, K. R.; Yang, Y.; Pak, M. V.; Hammes-Schiffer, S., "Is the Accuracy of Density Functional Theory for Atomization Energies and Densities in Bonding Regions Correlated?" J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2017, 8, 2076-2081, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.7b00774.

DFT Steven Bachrach 21 Aug 2017 No Comments

Progress in DFT development and the density they predict

“Getting the right answer for the right reason” – how important is this principle when it comes to computational chemistry? Medvedev and co-workers argue that when it comes to DFT, trends in functional development have overlooked this maxim in favor of utility.1 Specifically, they note that

There exists an exact functional that yields the exact energy of a system from its exact density.

Over the past two decades a great deal of effort has gone into functional development, mostly in an empirical way done usually to improve energy prediction. This approach has a problem:

[It], however, overlooks the fact that the reproduction of exact energy is not a feature of the exact functional, unless the input electron density is exact as well.

So, these authors have studied functional performance with regards to obtaining proper electron densities. Using CCSD/aug-cc-pwCV5Z as the benchmark, they computed the electron density for a number of neutral and cationic atoms having 2, 4, or 10 electrons. Then, they computed the densities with 128 different functionals of all of the rungs of Jacob’s ladder. They find that accuracy was increasing as new functionals were developed from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Since then, however, newer functionals have tended towards poorer electron densities, even though energy prediction has continued to improve. Medvedev et al argue that the recent trend in DFT development has been towards functionals that are highly parameterized to fit energies with no consideration given to other aspects including the density or constraints of the exact functional.

In the same issue of Science, Hammes-Schiffer comments about this paper.2 She notes some technical issues, most importantly that the benchmark study is for atoms and that molecular densities might be a different issue. But more philosophically (and practically), she points out that for many chemical and biological systems, the energy and structure are of more interest than the density. Depending on where the errors in density occur, these errors may not be of particular relevance in understanding reactivity; i.e., if the errors are largely near the nuclei but the valence region is well described then reactions (transition states) might be treated reasonably well. She proposes that future development of functionals, likely still to be driven by empirical fitting, might include other data to fit to that may better reflect the density, such as dipole moments. This seems like a quite logical and rational step to take next.

A commentary by Korth3 summarizes a number of additional concerns regarding the Medvedev paper. The last concern is the one I find most striking:

Even if there really are (new) problems, it is as unclear as before how they can be overcome…With this in mind, it does not seem unreasonable to compromise on the quality of the atomic densities to improve the description of more relevant properties, such as the energetics of molecules.

Korth concludes with

In the meantime, while theoreticians should not rest until they have the right answer for the right reason, computational chemists and experimentalists will most likely continue to be happy with helpful answers for good reasons.

I do really think this is the correct take-away message: DFT does appear to provide good predictions of a variety of chemical and physical properties, and it will remain a widely utilized tool even if the density that underpins the theory is incorrect. Functional development must continue, and Medvedev et al. remind us of this need.


1) Medvedev, M. G.; Bushmarinov, I. S.; Sun, J.; Perdew, J. P.; Lyssenko, K. A., "Density functional theory is straying from the path toward the exact functional." Science 2017, 355, 49-52, DOI: 10.1126/science.aah5975.

2) Hammes-Schiffer, S., "A conundrum for density functional theory." Science 2017, 355, 28-29, DOI: 10.1126/science.aal3442.

3) Korth, M., "Density Functional Theory: Not Quite the Right Answer for the Right Reason Yet." Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, 56, 5396-5398, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201701894.

DFT Steven Bachrach 08 May 2017 1 Comment

Dispersion in organic chemistry – a review and another example

The role of dispersion in organic chemistry has been slowly recognized as being quite critical in a variety of systems. I have blogged on this subject many times, discussing new methods for properly treating dispersion within quantum computations along with a variety of molecular systems where dispersion plays a critical role. Schreiner1 has recently published a very nice review of molecular systems where dispersion is a key component towards understanding structure and/or properties.

In a similar vein, Wegner and coworkers have examined the Z to E transition of azobenzene systems (1a-g2a-g) using both experiment and computation.2 They excited the azobenzenes to the Z conformation and then monitored the rate for conversion to the E conformation. In addition they optimized the geometries of the two conformers and the transition state for their interconversion at both B3LYP/6-311G(d,p) and B3LYP-D3/6-311G(d,p). The optimized structure of the t-butyl-substituted system is shown in Figure 1.

a: R=H; b: R=tBu; c: R=Me; d: R=iPr; e: R=Cyclohexyl; f: R=Adamantyl; g: R=Ph




Figure 1. B3LYP-D3/6-311G(d,p) optimized geometries of 1a, 2a, and the TS connecting them.

The experiment finds that the largest activation barriers are for the adamantly 1f and t-butyl 1b azobenzenes, while the lowest barriers are for the parent 1a and methylated 1c azobenzenes.

The trends in these barriers are not reproduced at B3LYP but are reproduced at B3LYP-D3. This suggests that dispersion is playing a role. In the Z conformations, the two phenyl groups are close together, and if appropriately substituted with bulky substituents, contrary to what might be traditionally thought, the steric bulk does not destabilize the Z form but actually serves to increase the dispersion stabilization between these groups. This leads to a higher barrier for conversion from the Z conformer to the E conformer with increasing steric bulk.


(1) Wagner, J. P.; Schreiner, P. R. "London Dispersion in Molecular Chemistry—Reconsidering Steric Effects," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, 54, 12274-12296, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201503476.

(2) Schweighauser, L.; Strauss, M. A.; Bellotto, S.; Wegner, H. A. "Attraction or Repulsion? London Dispersion Forces Control Azobenzene Switches," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, 54, 13436-13439, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201506126.


1b: InChI=1S/C28H42N2/c1-25(2,3)19-13-20(26(4,5)6)16-23(15-19)29-30-24-17-21(27(7,8)9)14-22(18-24)28(10,11)12/h13-18H,1-12H3/b30-29-

2b: InChI=1S/C28H42N2/c1-25(2,3)19-13-20(26(4,5)6)16-23(15-19)29-30-24-17-21(27(7,8)9)14-22(18-24)28(10,11)12/h13-18H,1-12H3/b30-29+

DFT &Schreiner Steven Bachrach 04 Jan 2016 No Comments

Benchmarking π-conjugation

With the proliferation of density functionals, selecting the functional to use in your particular application requires some care. That is why there have been quite a number of benchmark studies (see these posts for some examples). Yu and Karton have now added to our benchmark catalog with a study of π-conjugation.1

They looked at a set of 60 reactions which involve a reactant with π-conjugation and a product which lacks conjugation. A few examples, showing examples involving linear and cyclic systems, are shown in Scheme 1.

Scheme 1.

The reaction energies were evaluated at W2-F12, which should have an error of a fraction of a kcal mol-1. Three of the reactions can be compared with experimental values, and difference in the experimental and computed values are well within the error bars of the experiment. It is too bad that the authors did not also examine 1,3-cyclohexadiene → 1,4-cyclohexadiene, a reaction that is both of broader interest than many of the ones included in the test set and can also be compared with experiment.

These 60 reactions were then evaluated with a slew of functionals from every rung of Jacob’s ladder. The highlights of this benchmark study are that most GGA and meta-GGA and hybrid functionals (like B3LYP) have errors that exceed chemical accuracy (about 1 kcal mol-1). However, the range-separated functionals give very good energies, including ωB97X-D. The best results are provided with double hybrid functionals. Lastly, the D3 dispersion correction does generally improve energies by 10-20%. On the wavefunction side, SCS-MPs gives excellent results, and may be one of the best choices when considering computational resources.


(1) Yu, L.-J.; Karton, A. "Assessment of theoretical procedures for a diverse set of isomerization reactions involving double-bond migration in conjugated dienes," Chem. Phys. 2014, 441, 166-177, DOI: 10.1016/j.chemphys.2014.07.015.

DFT Steven Bachrach 14 Jan 2015 2 Comments

Becke’s Perspective on DFT

The Journal of Chemical Physics has produced a Special Topics issue on Advances in Density Functional Theory. I want to call to your attention the Perspective article by Becke titled “Perspective: Fifty years of density-functional theory in chemical physics”.1 Becke writes a personal account of the history of DFT and makes a number of interesting points and observations. He rightly notes that DFT is exact and we should more properly refer to our actual implementations as Density Functional Approximations (DFA). He also notes that use of the term ab initio as a synonym for wavefunction theory is inappropriate as DFT is just as ab initio as HF and post-HF theories.

A common perception about DFT (well, DFA) is that there is no way to systematically improve functionals. Becke exposes a true underlying logic that has driven much of DFA development.

Lastly, Becke is discouraged by the more recent developments that have included virtual orbitals, such as double hybrid methods. His approach is that true DFT is occupied orbitals only (for which he pointedly does not want to adopt the acronym OOO), and that developments that include the virtual orbitals might toll the “death knell” for DFT.

For those interested in a pretty accessible account of the history of DFT, Becke’s Perspective is an excellent place to get started.


(1) Becke, A. D. "Perspective: Fifty years of density-functional theory in chemical physics," J. Chem. Phys. 2014, 140, 18A301 DOI: 10.1063/1.4869598.

DFT Steven Bachrach 24 Sep 2014 No Comments

Computing OR: norbornenone

Optical activity is a major tool for identifying enantiomers. With recent developments in computational techniques, it is hoped that experiments combined with computations will be a powerful tool for determining absolute configuration. The recent work of Lahiri, et al. demonstrates the scope of theoretical work that is still needed to really make this approach broadly applicable.1

They prepared (1R,4R)-norbornenone 1 and measured its optical rotation in the gas phase and in dilute solutions of acetonitrile and cyclohexane. The specific rotations at three different wavelengths are listed in Table 1. Of first note is that though there is some small differences in solution, as expected, there really is substantial differences between the gas- and solution phases. Thus cautionary point 1: be very careful of comparing solution phase experimental optical activity with computed gas phase predictions.


Table 1. Experimental and computed specific rotation of 1.


355.0 nm

589.3 nm

633.0 nm

Gas phase













Acetonitrile solution









Cyclohexane solution









For the computations, the geometry of 1 was optimized at B3LYP/aug-cc-pVTZ (see Figure 1. The OR was computed at B3LYP with different basis sets, finding that the difference in the predicted specific rotation at 598.3nm differs only quite little (90.6 deg dm-1 (g/mL)-1) between the computations using aug-cc-pVTZ and aug-cc-pVQZ) suggesting that the basis set limit has been reached. The gas –phase computed values at B3LYP and CCSD are also shown in Table 1. Though these computations do get the correct sign of the rotation, they are appreciably off of the experimental values, and the percent error varies with wavelength. Cautionary point 2: it is not obvious what is the appropriate computational method to compute OR, and beware of values that seem reasonable at one wavelength – this does not predict a good agreement at a different wavelength.

Figure 1. Optimized geometry of 1 at B3LYP/aug-cc-pVTZ.

Lastly, computed solution values of the OR were performed with PCM and B3LYP. These values are given in Table 1. Again the agreement is poor. So cautionary point 3: computed (PCM) solution OR
may be in quite poor agreement with experiment.

Often the culprit to poor agreement between computed and experimental OR is attributed to omitted vibrational effects, but in this case, because 1 is so rigid, one might not expect too much error to be caused by the effects of vibrations. So the overall result – we need considerable work towards addressing how to accurately compute optical activity!


(1) Lahiri, P.; Wiberg, K. B.; Vaccaro, P. H.; Caricato, M.; Crawford, T. D. "Large Solvation Effect in the Optical Rotatory Dispersion of Norbornenone," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 1386-1389, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201306339.


1: InChI=1S/C7H8O/c8-7-4-5-1-2-6(7)3-5/h1-2,5-6H,3-4H2/t5-,6+/m1/s1

DFT &Optical Rotation Steven Bachrach 25 Feb 2014 2 Comments

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