Are Dispersion Corrections Accurate Outside Equilibrium? A Case Study on Benzene

Modern approaches to modelling dispersion forces are becoming increasingly accurate, and can predict accurate binding distances and energies. However, it is possible that these successes reflect a fortuitous cancellation of errors at equilibrium. Thus, in this work we investigate whether a selection of modern dispersion methods agree with benchmark calculations across several potential-energy curves of the benzene dimer to determine if they are capable of describing forces and energies outside equilibrium. We find the exchange-hold dipole moment (XDM) model describes most cases with the highest overall agreement with reference data for energies and forces, with many-body dispersion (MBD) and its fractionally ionic (FI) variant performing essentially as well. Popular approaches, such as Grimme-D and van der Waals density functional approximations (vdW-DFAs) underperform on our tests. The meta-GGA M06-L is surprisingly good for a method without explicit dispersion corrections. Some problems with SCAN+rVV10 are uncovered and briefly discussed.