How Good is the Density-Corrected SCAN Functional for Neutral and Ionic Aqueous Systems, and What is so Right about the Hartree-Fock Density?

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


Density functional theory (DFT) is the most widely used electronic structure method, due to its simplicity and cost effectiveness. The accuracy of a DFT calculation de- pends not only on the choice of the density functional approximation (DFA) adopted but also on the electron density produced by the DFA. SCAN is a modern functional that satisfies all known constraints for meta-GGA functionals. The density-driven errors, defined as energy errors arising from errors of the self-consistent DFA electron density, can hinder SCAN from achieving chemical accuracy in some systems, including water. Density-corrected DFT (DC-DFT) can alleviate this shortcoming by adopting a more accurate electron density which, in most applications, is the electron density obtained at the Hartree-Fock level of theory due to its relatively low computational cost. In this work, we present extensive calculations aimed at determining the accuracy of the DC-SCAN functional for various aqueous systems. DC-SCAN (SCAN@HF) shows remarkable consistency in reproducing reference data obtained at the coupled cluster level of theory, with minimal loss of accuracy. Density-driven errors in the description of ionic aqueous clusters are thoroughly investigated. By comparison with the orbital-optimized CCSD density in the water dimer, we find that the self-consistent SCAN density transfers a spurious fraction of an electron across the hydrogen bond to the hydrogen atom (H⋆, covalently bound to the donor oxygen atom) from the acceptor (OA) and donor (OD) oxygen atoms, while HF makes a much smaller spurious transfer in the opposite direction, consistent with DC-SCAN (SCAN@HF) reduction of SCAN over-binding due to delocalization error. While LDA seems to be the conventional extreme of density delocalization error, and HF the conventional extreme of (usually much smaller) density localization error, these two densities do not quite yield the conventional range of density-driven error in energy differences. Finally, comparisons of the DC-SCAN results with those obtained with the Fermi-Lowdin orbital self-interaction correction (FLOSIC) method show that DC-SCAN represents a more accurate approach to reducing density-driven errors in SCAN calculations of ionic aqueous clusters.


density functional theory
delocalization error
density-driven errors
hydrated ions
protonated water
deprotonated water
many-body interactions

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information
Additional analyses


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