Understanding and Calibrating Density-Functional-Theory Calculations Describing the Energy and Spectroscopy of Defect Sites in Hexagonal Boron Nitride

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Journal Article
Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, 2018, 14 (3), pp. 1602 - 1613
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© 2018 American Chemical Society. Defect states in 2-D materials present many possible uses but both experimental and computational characterization of their spectroscopic properties is difficult. We provide and compare results from 13 DFT and ab initio computational methods for up to 25 excited states of a paradigm system, the VNCBdefect in hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN). Studied include: (i) potentially catastrophic effects for computational methods arising from the multireference nature of the closed-shell and open-shell states of the defect, which intrinsically involves broken chemical bonds, (ii) differing results from DFT and time-dependent DFT (TDDFT) calculations, (iii) comparison of cluster models to periodic-slab models of the defect, (iv) the starkly differing effects of nuclear relaxation on the various electronic states that control the widths of photoabsorption and photoemission spectra as broken bonds try to heal, (v) the effect of zero-point energy and entropy on free-energy differences, (vi) defect-localized and conduction/valence-band transition natures, and (vii) strategies needed to ensure that the lowest-energy state of a defect can be computationally identified. Averaged state-energy differences of 0.3 eV are found between CCSD(T) and MRCI energies, with thermal effects on free energies sometimes also being of this order. However, DFT-based methods can perform very poorly. Simple generalized-gradient functionals like PBE fail at the most basic level and should never be applied to defect states. Hybrid functionals like HSE06 work very well for excitations within the triplet manifold of the defect, with an accuracy equivalent to or perhaps exceeding the accuracy of the ab initio methods used. However, HSE06 underestimates triplet-state energies by on average of 0.7 eV compared to closed-shell singlet states, while open-shell singlet states are predicted to be too low in energy by 1.0 eV. This leads to misassignment of the ground state of the VNCBdefect. Long-range corrected functionals like CAM-B3LYP are shown to work much better and to represent the current entry level for DFT calculations on defects. As significant differences between cluster and periodic-slab models are also found, the widespread implementation of such functionals in periodic codes is in urgent need.
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