Reliable crystal structure predictions from first principles

Nikhar, Rahul
Szalewicz, Krzysztof
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Nature Communications
An inexpensive and reliable method for molecular crystal structure predictions (CSPs) has been developed. The new CSP protocol starts from a two-dimensional graph of crystal’s monomer(s) and utilizes no experimental information. Using results of quantum mechanical calculations for molecular dimers, an accurate two-body, rigid-monomer ab initio-based force field (aiFF) for the crystal is developed. Since CSPs with aiFFs are essentially as expensive as with empirical FFs, tens of thousands of plausible polymorphs generated by the crystal packing procedures can be optimized. Here we show the robustness of this protocol which found the experimental crystal within the 20 most stable predicted polymorphs for each of the 15 investigated molecules. The ranking was further refined by performing periodic density-functional theory (DFT) plus dispersion correction (pDFT+D) calculations for these 20 top-ranked polymorphs, resulting in the experimental crystal ranked as number one for all the systems studied (and the second polymorph, if known, ranked in the top few). Alternatively, the polymorphs generated can be used to improve aiFFs, which also leads to rank one predictions. The proposed CSP protocol should result in aiFFs replacing empirical FFs in CSP research.
This article was originally published in Nature Communications. The version of record is available at:
Nikhar, R., Szalewicz, K. Reliable crystal structure predictions from first principles. Nat Commun 13, 3095 (2022).