Enumeration for de novo inorganic chemistry

Despite being attractive targets for functional materials, the discovery of transition metal complexes with high-throughput computational screening is challenged by the amount of feasible coordination numbers, spin states, or oxidation states and the potentially large sizes of ligands. To overcome these limitations, we take inspiration from organic chemistry where full enumeration of neutral, closed shell molecules under the constraint of size has enriched discovery efforts. We design monodentate and bidentate ligands from scratch for the construction of mononuclear, octahedral transition metal complexes with up to 13 heavy atoms (i.e., metal, C, N, O, P, or S). From > 11,000 theoretical ligands, we develop a heuristic score for ranking a chemically feasible 2,500 ligand subset, only 71 of which were previously included in common organic molecule databases. We characterize the top 20% of scored ligands with density functional theory (DFT) in an octahedral homoleptic ligand database (OHLDB). The OHLDB contains i) the geometry optimized structures of 1,250 homoleptic octahedral complexes obtained from the enumerated pool of ligands and an open-shell transition metal (M(II)/M(III), M = Cr, Mn, Fe, or Co), and ii) the resulting high-spin/low-spin adiabatic electronic energies (ΔEH-L) obtained with hybrid DFT. Over the OHLDB, we observe structure–property (i.e., ΔEH-L) relationships different from those expected on the basis of ligand field arguments or from our prior data sets. Finally, we demonstrate how incorporating OHLDB data into artificial neural network (ANN) training improves ANN out-of-sample performance on much larger transition metal complexes.


Check out our recent publication in Molecular Systems Design & Engineering here as part of the upcoming 2020 Emerging Investigator special issue.

About Us

The Kulik group focuses on the development and application of new electronic structure methods and atomistic simulations tools in the broad area of catalysis.

Our Interests

We are interested in transition metal chemistry, with applications from biological systems (i.e. enzymes) to nonbiological applications in surface science and molecular catalysis.

Our Focus

A key focus of our group is to understand mechanistic features of complex catalysts and to facilitate and develop tools for computationally driven design.

Contact Us

Questions or comments? Let us know! Contact Dr. Kulik: