Convergence Properties of Crystal Structure Prediction by Quasi-Random Sampling

Generating sets of trial structures that sample the configurational space of crystal packing possibilities is an essential step in the process of <i>ab initio</i> crystal structure prediction (CSP). One effective methodology for performing such a search relies on low-discrepancy, quasi-random sampling, and our implementation of such a search for molecular crystals is described in this paper. Herein we restrict ourselves to rigid organic molecules and, by considering their geometric properties, build trial crystal packings as starting points for local lattice energy minimization. We also describe a method to match instances of the same structure, which we use to measure the convergence of our packing search toward completeness. The use of these tools is demonstrated for a set of molecules with diverse molecular characteristics and as representative of areas of application where CSP has been applied. An important finding is that the lowest energy crystal structures are typically located early and frequently during a quasi-random search of phase space. It is usually the complete sampling of higher energy structures that requires extended sampling. We show how the procedure can first be refined, through targetting the volume of the generated crystal structures, and then extended across a range of space groups to make a full CSP search and locate experimentally observed and lists of hypothetical polymorphs. As the described method has also been created to lie at the base of more involved approaches to CSP, which are being developed within the Global Lattice Energy Explorer (Glee) software, a few of these extensions are briefly discussed.