How Do Self-Interaction Errors Associated with Stretched Bonds Affect Barrier Height Predictions?

Priyanka B. Shukla, Prakash Mishra, Tunna Baruah, Rajendra R. Zope, Koblar A. Jackson, J. Karl Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Density functional theory (DFT) suffers from self-interaction errors (SIEs) that generally result in the underestimation of chemical reaction barrier heights. This is commonly attributed to the tendency of density functional approximations to overstabilize delocalized densities that typically occur in the stretched bonds of transition state structures. The Perdew-Zunger self-interaction correction (PZSIC) and locally scaled self-interaction correction (LSIC) improve the prediction of barrier heights of chemical reactions, with LSIC giving better accuracy than PZSIC on average. These methods employ an orbital-by-orbital correction scheme to remove the one-electron SIE. In the context of barrier heights, this allows an analysis of how the self-interaction correction (SIC) for each orbital contributes to the calculated barriers using Fermi-Löwdin orbitals (FLOs). We hypothesize that the SIC contribution to the reaction barrier comes mainly from a limited number of orbitals that are directly involved in bond-breaking and bond-making in the reaction transition state. We call these participant orbitals (POs), in contrast to spectator orbitals (SOs) which are not directly involved in changes to the bonding. Our hypothesis is that ΔETotalSIC ≈ ΔEPOSIC, where ΔETotalSIC is the difference in the SIC corrections for the reactants or products and the transition state. We test this hypothesis for the reaction barriers of the BH76 benchmark set of reactions. We find that the stretched-bond orbitals indeed make the largest individual SIC contributions to the barriers. These contributions increase the barrier heights relative to LSDA, which underpredicts the barrier. However, the full stretched-bond hypothesis does not hold in all cases for either PZSIC or LSIC. There are many cases where the total SIC contribution from the SOs is significant and cannot be ignored. The size of the SIC contribution to the barrier height is a key indicator. A large SIC correction is correlated to a large LSDA error in the barrier, showing that PZSIC properly gives larger corrections when corrections are needed most. A comparison of the performance of PZSIC and LSIC shows that the two methods have similar accuracy for reactions with large LSDA errors, but LSIC is clearly better for reactions with small errors. We trace this to an improved description of reaction energies in LSIC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1750-1759
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 23 2023


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