Comparing GGA, GGA+U, and meta-GGA functionals for redox-dependent binding at open metal sites in metal-organic frameworks

Andrew S. Rosen, Justin M. Notestein*, Randall Q. Snurr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) with open metal sites have been widely investigated for the selective adsorption of small molecules via redox mechanisms where charge transfer can take place between the binding site and the adsorbate of interest. Quantum-chemical screening methods based on density functional theory have emerged as a promising route to accelerate the discovery of MOFs with enhanced binding affinities toward various adsorbates. However, the success of this approach is linked to the accuracy of the underlying density functional approximations (DFAs). In this work, we compare commonly used generalized gradient approximation (GGA), GGA+U, and meta-GGA exchange-correlation functionals in modeling redox-dependent binding at open metal sites in MOFs using O2 and N2 as representative small molecules. We find that the self-interaction error inherent to the widely used Perdew, Burke, and Ernzerhof (PBE) GGA predicts metal sites that are artificially redox-active, as evidenced by their strong binding affinities, short metal-adsorbate bond distances, and large degree of charge transfer. The incorporation of metal-specific, empirical Hubbard U corrections based on the transition metal oxide literature systematically reduces the redox activity of the open metal sites, often improving agreement with experiment. Additionally, the binding behavior shifts from strong chemisorption to weaker physisorption as a function of U. The M06-L meta-GGA typically predicts binding energies between those of PBE-D3(BJ) and PBE-D3(BJ)+U when using empirically derived U values from the transition metal oxide literature. Despite the strong sensitivity of the binding affinities toward a given DFA, the GGA, GGA+U, and meta-GGA approaches often yield the same qualitative trends and structure-property relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number224101
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number22
StatePublished - Jun 14 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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