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Exploring the limit of accuracy for density functionals based on the generalized gradient approximation: Local, global hybrid, and range-separated hybrid functionals with and without dispersion corrections

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The limit of accuracy for semi-empirical generalized gradient approximation (GGA) density functionals is explored by parameterizing a variety of local, global hybrid, and range-separated hybrid functionals. The training methodology employed differs from conventional approaches in 2 main ways: (1) Instead of uniformly truncating the exchange, same-spin correlation, and opposite-spin correlation functional inhomogeneity correction factors, all possible fits up to fourth order are considered, and (2) Instead of selecting the optimal functionals based solely on their training set performance, the fits are validated on an independent test set and ranked based on their overall performance on the training and test sets. The 3 different methods of accounting for exchange are trained both with and without dispersion corrections (DFT-D2 and VV10), resulting in a total of 491 508 candidate functionals. For each of the 9 functional classes considered, the results illustrate the trade-off between improved training set performance and diminished transferability. Since all 491 508 functionals are uniformly trained and tested, this methodology allows the relative strengths of each type of functional to be consistently compared and contrasted. The range-separated hybrid GGA functional paired with the VV10 nonlocal correlation functional emerges as the most accurate form for the present training and test sets, which span thermochemical energy differences, reaction barriers, and intermolecular interactions involving lighter main group elements.

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