Density Functional Theory of Water with the Machine-Learned DM21 Functional

10 March 2022, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The delicate interplay between functional-driven and density-driven errors in density functional theory (DFT) has hindered traditional density functional approximations (DFAs) from providing an accurate description of water for over 30 years. Recently, the deep-learned DeepMind 21 (DM21) functional has been shown to overcome the limitations of traditional DFAs as it is free of delocalization error. To determine if DM21 can enable a molecular-level description of the physical properties of aqueous systems within Kohn-Sham DFT, we assess the accuracy of the DM21 functional for neutral, protonated, and deprotonated water clusters. We find that the ability of DM21 to accurately predict the energetics of aqueous clusters varies significantly with cluster size. Additionally, we introduce the many-body MB-DM21 potential derived from DM21 data within the many-body expansion of the energy and use it in simulations of liquid water as a function of temperature at ambient pressure. We find that size-dependent functional-driven errors identified in the analysis of the energetics of small clusters calculated with the DM21 functional result in the MB-DM21 potential systematically overestimating the hydrogen-bond strength and, consequently, predicting a more ice-like local structure of water at room temperature.


data-driven models
density functional theory
hydrogen bonding
machine learning

Supplementary materials

Supplementary Information
Computational details, and additional analyses of interaction and binding energies of neutral, protonated, and deprotonated water clusters of different sizes.


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