Selection of active spaces for multiconfigurational wavefunctions

by Keller, Sebastian; Boguslawski, Katharina; Janowski, Tomasz; Reiher, Markus; Pulay, Peter

The efficient and accurate description of the electronic structure of strongly correlated systems is still a largely unsolved problem. The usual procedures start with a multiconfigurational (usually a Complete Active Space, CAS) wavefunction which accounts for static correlation and add dynamical correlation by perturbation theory, configuration interaction, or coupled cluster expansion. This procedure requires the correct selection of the active space. Intuitive methods are unreliable for complex systems. The inexpensive black-box unrestricted natural orbital (UNO) criterion postulates that the Unrestricted Hartree-Fock (UHF) charge natural orbitals with fractional occupancy (e.g., between 0.02 and 1.98) constitute the active space. UNOs generally approximate the CAS orbitals so well that the orbital optimization in CAS Self-Consistent Field (CASSCF) may be omitted, resulting in the inexpensive UNO-CAS method. A rigorous testing of the UNO criterion requires comparison with approximate full configuration interaction wavefunctions. This became feasible with the advent of Density Matrix Renormalization Group (DMRG) methods which can approximate highly correlated wavefunctions at affordable cost. We have compared active orbital occupancies in UNO-CAS and CASSCF calculations with DMRG in a number of strongly correlated molecules: compounds of electronegative atoms (F-2, ozone, and NO2), polyenes, aromatic molecules (naphthalene, azulene, anthracene, and nitrobenzene), radicals (phenoxy and benzyl), diradicals (o-, m-, and p-benzyne), and transition metal compounds (nickel-acetylene and Cr-2). The UNO criterion works well in these cases. Other symmetry breaking solutions, with the possible exception of spatial symmetry, do not appear to be essential to generate the correct active space. In the case of multiple UHF solutions, the natural orbitals of the average UHF density should be used. The problems of the UNO criterion and their potential solutions are discussed: finding the UHF solutions, discontinuities on potential energy surfaces, and inclusion of dynamical electron correlation and generalization to excited states. (C) 2015 AIP Publishing LLC.

Journal of Chemical Physics
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1089-7690; 0021-9606