A Systematic Study of DFT Performance for Geometry Optimizations of Ionic Liquid Clusters

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Clusters of two ion pairs of imidazolium-based ionic liquids were optimized with 43 different levels of theory, including DFT functionals and MP2-based methods combined with varying Dunning's basis sets, and added dispersion corrections. Better preforming DFT functionals were then applied to clusters consisting of four ion pairs. Excellent performance of some DFT functionals for the two ion pair clusters did not always match that of the four ion-paired clusters despite interionic distances remaining constant between the optimized two and four ion-paired clusters of the same ionic liquid. Combinations of DFT functional and basis set such as ωB97X-D/cc-pVDZ, M06-2X/aug-cc-pVDZ, B3LYP-D3/cc-pVTZ, and TPSS-D3/cc-pVTZ gave excellent results for geometry optimization of two ion-paired clusters of imidazolium ionic liquids but gave larger deviations when applied to the four ion-paired clusters of varying ionic liquids. Empirical dispersion corrections were seen to be crucial in correctly capturing correlation effects in the studied ionic liquid clusters, becoming more important in larger clusters. Dunning's double-ζ basis set, cc-pVDZ, is associated with the smallest root mean squared deviations for geometries; however, it also produces the largest deviations in total electronic energies. ωB97X-D and M06-2X produced the best performance with the augmented version of this basis set. The triple-ζ basis set, cc-pVTZ, leads to the best performance of most of the DFT functionals (especially the dispersion-corrected ones) used, whereas its augmented version, aug-cc-pVTZ, was not seen to improve results. The combinations of functional and basis set that gave the best geometry and energetics in both two and four ion-paired clusters were PBE-D3/cc-pVTZ, ωB97X-D/aug-cc-pVDZ, and BLYP-D3/cc-pVTZ. All three combinations are recommended for geometry optimizations of larger clusters of ionic liquids. PBE-D3/cc-pVTZ performed the best with an average deviation of 2.3 kJ mol-1 and a standard deviation of 3.4 kJ mol-1 for total electronic energy when applied to four ion-paired clusters. Geometries optimized with FMO2-SRS-MP2/cc-pVTZ produced total energy within 2.0 kJ mol-1 off the benchmark in two ion-paired clusters, with the cc-pVDZ basis set performing unsurprisingly poorly with the same method. The error increased to 4.8 kJ mol-1 on average in four ion-paired clusters, with the smallest RMSD deviations in geometries when compared to the benchmark ones. This study is the first report that investigated the performance of DFT functionals for two and four ion-paired clusters of a wide range of ionic liquids consisting of commonly used cations such as pyrrolidinium, imidazolium, pyridinium, and ammonium. It also identified the importance of assessing the performance of quantum chemical methods for ionic liquids on a variety of cation-anion combinations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6735-6753
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Chemical Theory and Computation
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2020

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