Density Functionals with Quantum Chemical Accuracy: From Machine Learning to Molecular Dynamics

Kohn-Sham density functional theory (DFT) is a standard tool in most branches of chemistry, but accuracies for many molecules are limited to 2-3 kcal/mol with presently-available functionals. Ab initio methods, such as coupled-cluster, routinely produce much higher accuracy, but computational costs limit their application to small molecules. We create density functionals from coupled-cluster energies, based only on DFT densities, via machine learning. These functionals attain quantum chemical accuracy (errors below 1 kcal/mol). Moreover, density-based ∆-learning (learning only the correction to a standard DFT calculation, ∆-DFT) significantly reduces the amount of training data required. We demonstrate these concepts for a single water molecule, and then illustrate how to include molecular symmetries with ethanol. Finally, we highlight the robustness of ∆-DFT by correcting DFT simulations of resorcinol on the fly to obtain molecular dynamics (MD) trajectories with coupled-cluster accuracy. Thus ∆-DFT opens the door to running gas-phase MD simulations with quantum chemical accuracy, even for strained geometries and conformer changes where standard DFT is quantitatively incorrect.