Despite their unmatched success for many applications, commonly used local, semi-local, and hybrid density functionals still face challenges when it comes to describing long-range interactions, static correlation, and electron delocalization. Density functionals of both the occupied and virtual orbitals are able to address these problems. The particle-hole (ph-) Random Phase Approximation (RPA), a functional of occupied and virtual orbitals, has recently known a revival within the density functional theory community. Following up on an idea introduced in our recent communication [H. van Aggelen, Y. Yang, and W. Yang, Phys. Rev. A88, 030501 (2013)], we formulate more general adiabatic connections for the correlation energy in terms of pairing matrix fluctuations described by the particle-particle (pp-) propagator. With numerical examples of the pp-RPA, the lowest-order approximation to the pp-propagator, we illustrate the potential of density functional approximations based on pairing matrix fluctuations. The pp-RPA is size-extensive, self-interaction free, fully anti-symmetric, describes the strong static correlation limit in H2, and eliminates delocalization errors in

${\rm {H}_{2}^{+}}$
H2+ and other single-bond systems. It gives surprisingly good non-bonded interaction energies – competitive with the ph-RPA – with the correct R−6 asymptotic decay as a function of the separation R, which we argue is mainly attributable to its correct second-order energy term. While the pp-RPA tends to underestimate absolute correlation energies, it gives good relative energies: much better atomization energies than the ph-RPA, as it has no tendency to underbind, and reaction energies of similar quality. The adiabatic connection in terms of pairing matrix fluctuation paves the way for promising new density functional approximations.

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