Many crystal structure prediction protocols only concern themselves with the electronic energy of molecular crystals. However, vibrational contributions to the free energy (Fvib) can be significant in determining accurate stability rankings for crystal candidates. While force-field studies have been conducted to gauge the magnitude of these free-energy corrections, highly accurate results from quantum mechanical methods, such as density-functional theory (DFT), are desirable. Here, we introduce the PV17 set of 17 polymorphic pairs of organic molecular crystals, for which plane wave DFT is used to calculate the vibrational free energies and free-energy differences (ΔFvib) between each pair. Our DFT results confirm that the vibrational free-energy corrections are small, having a mean value of 1.0 kJ/mol and a maximum value of 2.3 kJ/mol for the PV17 set. Furthermore, we assess the accuracy of a series of lower-cost DFT, semi-empirical, and force-field models for computing ΔFvib that have been proposed in the literature. It is found that calculating Fvib using the Γ-point frequencies does not provide ΔFvib values of sufficiently high quality. In addition, ΔFvib values calculated using various approximate methods have mean absolute errors relative to our converged DFT results of equivalent or larger magnitude than the vibrational free-energy corrections themselves. Thus, we conclude that, in a crystal structure prediction protocol, it is preferable to forego the inclusion of vibrational free-energy corrections than to estimate them with any of the approximate methods considered here.
A density-functional benchmark of vibrational free-energy corrections for molecular crystal polymorphism
Joseph A. Weatherby, Adrian F. Rumson, Alastair J. A. Price, Alberto Otero de la Roza, Erin R. Johnson; A density-functional benchmark of vibrational free-energy corrections for molecular crystal polymorphism. J. Chem. Phys. 21 March 2022; 156 (11): 114108. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0083082
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