Physical Chemistry

Unknown Knowns: Case Studies in Uncertainties in the Computation of Thermochemical Parameters



Both the computation of, and the uncertainties associated, with gas-phase molar formation enthalpies are now quite well established for systems comprised of tens of ‘heavy’ atoms chosen from the commonest elements. The same cannot be said for derived thermochemical quantities such as entropy, heat capacity and an enthalpy function. Whilst the application of well known statistical thermodynamic relations is mostly understood, the determination of the uncertainty with which such values can be obtained has been little studied — apart, that is, for a general protocol devised by Goldsmith et al. [J. Phys. Chem. A, 2012, 116, 9033–9057]. Specific examples from that work are explored here and it is shown that their estimates are overly pessimistic. It is also evident that for some species the calculated thermochemical parameters show very little variation with either the level of theory, or basis set, or treatment of vibrational modes — this renders the inclusion of such species in databases designed to validate new methods of limited value.

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