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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Thermal Density Functional Theory, Ensemble Density Functional Theory, and Potential Functional Theory for Warm Dense Matter

  • Author(s): Pribram-Jones, Aurora
  • Advisor(s): Burke, Kieron
  • et al.

Warm dense matter (WDM) is a high energy phase between solids and plasmas, with characteristics of both. It is present in the centers of giant planets, within the earth's core, and on the path to ignition of inertial confinement fusion. The high temperatures and pressures of warm dense matter lead to complications in its simulation, as both classical and quantum effects must be included. One of the most successful simulation methods is density functional theory-molecular dynamics (DFT-MD). Despite great success in a diverse array of applications, DFT-MD remains computationally expensive and it neglects the explicit temperature dependence of electron-electron interactions known to exist within exact DFT.

Finite-temperature density functional theory (FT DFT) is an extension of the wildly successful ground-state DFT formalism via thermal ensembles, broadening its quantum mechanical treatment of electrons to include systems at non-zero temperatures. Exact mathematical conditions have been used to predict the behavior of approximations in limiting conditions and to connect FT DFT to the ground-state theory. An introduction to FT DFT is given within the context of ensemble DFT and the larger field of DFT is discussed for context.

Ensemble DFT is used to describe ensembles of ground-state and excited systems. Exact conditions in ensemble DFT and the performance of approximations depend on ensemble weights. Using an inversion method, exact Kohn-Sham ensemble potentials are found and compared to approximations. The symmetry eigenstate Hartree-exchange approximation is in good agreement with exact calculations because of its inclusion of an ensemble derivative discontinuity. Since ensemble weights in FT DFT are temperature-dependent Fermi weights, this insight may help develop approximations well-suited to both ground-state and FT DFT.

A novel, highly efficient approach to free energy calculations, finite-temperature potential functional theory, is derived, which has the potential to transform the simulation of warm dense matter. As a semiclassical method, it connects the normally disparate regimes of cold condensed matter physics and hot plasma physics. This orbital-free approach captures the smooth classical density envelope and quantum density oscillations that are both crucial to accurate modeling of materials where temperature and pressure effects are influential.

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