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Plane-Wave Density Functional Theory Meets Molecular Crystals: Thermal Ellipsoids and Intermolecular Interactions.

Deringer, VL and George, J and Dronskowski, R and Englert, U (2017) Plane-Wave Density Functional Theory Meets Molecular Crystals: Thermal Ellipsoids and Intermolecular Interactions. Accounts of Chemical Research, 50. pp. 1231-1239. ISSN 1520-4898

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Molecular compounds, organic and inorganic, crystallize in diverse and complex structures. They continue to inspire synthetic efforts and "crystal engineering", with implications ranging from fundamental questions to pharmaceutical research. The structural complexity of molecular solids is linked with diverse intermolecular interactions: hydrogen bonding with all its facets, halogen bonding, and other secondary bonding mechanisms of recent interest (and debate). Today, high-resolution diffraction experiments allow unprecedented insight into the structures of molecular crystals. Despite their usefulness, however, these experiments also face problems: hydrogen atoms are challenging to locate, and thermal effects may complicate matters. Moreover, even if the structure of a crystal is precisely known, this does not yet reveal the nature and strength of the intermolecular forces that hold it together. In this Account, we show that periodic plane-wave-based density functional theory (DFT) can be a useful, and sometimes unexpected, complement to molecular crystallography. Initially developed in the solid-state physics communities to treat inorganic solids, periodic DFT can be applied to molecular crystals just as well: theoretical structural optimizations "help out" by accurately localizing the elusive hydrogen atoms, reaching neutron-diffraction quality with much less expensive measurement equipment. In addition, phonon computations, again developed by physicists, can quantify the thermal motion of atoms and thus predict anisotropic displacement parameters and ORTEP ellipsoids "from scratch". But the synergy between experiment and theory goes much further than that. Once a structure has been accurately determined, computations give new and detailed insights into the aforementioned intermolecular interactions. For example, it has been debated whether short hydrogen bonds in solids have covalent character, and we have added a new twist to this discussion using an orbital-based theory that once more had been developed for inorganic solids. However, there is more to a crystal structure than a handful of short contacts between neighboring residues. We hence have used dimensionally resolved analyses to dissect crystalline networks in a systematic fashion, one spatial direction at a time. Initially applied to hydrogen bonding, these techniques can be seamlessly extended to halogen, chalcogen, and pnictogen bonding, quantifying bond strength and cooperativity in truly infinite networks. Finally, these methods promise to be useful for (bio)polymers, as we have recently exemplified for α-chitin. At the interface of increasingly accurate and popular DFT methods, ever-improving crystallographic expertise, and new challenging, chemical questions, we believe that combined experimental and theoretical studies of molecular crystals are just beginning to pick up speed.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Div C > Applied Mechanics
Div C > Materials Engineering
Depositing User: Cron Job
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2017 03:53
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2021 00:44
DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.7b00067