Improving DFT descriptions of surface chemistry

Approximate, semi-local density functional theory (DFT) suffers from delocalization error that can lead to a paradoxical model of catalytic surfaces that both overbind adsorbates yet are also too stable. We investigate the effect of two widely applied approaches for delocalization error correction, i) affordable DFT+U (i.e., semi-local DFT augmented with a Hubbard U) and ii) hybrid functionals with an admixture of Hartree-Fock (HF) exchange, on surface and adsorbate energies across a range of rutile transition metal oxides widely studied for their promise as water splitting catalysts. We observe strongly row- and period-dependent trends with DFT+U, which increases surface formation energies only in early transition metals (e.g., Ti, V) and decreases adsorbate energies only in later transition metals (e.g., Ir, Pt). Both global and local hybrids destabilize surfaces and reduce adsorbate binding across the periodic table, in agreement with higher-level reference calculations. Density analysis reveals why hybrid functionals correct both quantities, whereas DFT+U does not. We recommend local, range-separated hybrids for the accurate modeling of catalysis in transition metal oxides at only a modest increase in computational cost over semi-local DFT.

Check out our recent article published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters here!

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.

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