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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cyclic density functional theory: A route to the first principles simulation of bending in nanostructures

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We formulate and implement Cyclic Density Functional Theory (Cyclic DFT) — a self-consistent first principles simulation method for nanostructures with cyclic symmetries. Using arguments based on Group Representation Theory, we rigorously demonstrate that the Kohn-Sham eigenvalue problem for such systems can be reduced to a fundamental domain (or cyclic unit cell) augmented with cyclic-Bloch boundary conditions. Analogously, the equations of electrostatics appearing in Kohn-Sham theory can be reduced to the fundamental domain augmented with cyclic boundary conditions. By making use of this symmetry cell reduction, we show that the electronic ground-state energy and the Hellmann-Feynman forces on the atoms can be calculated using quantities defined over the fundamental domain. We develop a symmetry-adapted finite-difference discretization scheme to obtain a fully functional numerical realization of the proposed approach. We verify that our formulation and implementation of Cyclic DFT is both accurate and efficient through selected examples. The connection of cyclic symmetries with uniform bending deformations provides an elegant route to the ab-initio study of bending in nanostructures using Cyclic DFT. As a demonstration of this capability, we simulate the uniform bending of a silicene nanoribbon and obtain its energy-curvature relationship from first principles. A self-consistent ab-initio simulation of this nature is unprecedented and well outside the scope of any other systematic first principles method in existence. Our simulations reveal that the bending stiffness of the silicene nanoribbon is intermediate between that of graphene and molybdenum disulphide — a trend which can be ascribed to the variation in effective thickness of these materials. We describe several future avenues and applications of Cyclic DFT, including its extension to the study of non-uniform bending deformations and its possible use in the study of the nanoscale flexoelectric effect.

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