Generalized Gradient Approximations of the Noninteracting Kinetic Energy from the Semiclassical Atom Theory: Rationalization of the Accuracy of the Frozen Density Embedding Theory for Nonbonded Interactions

We present a new class of noninteracting kinetic energy (KE) functionals, derived from the semiclassical-atom theory. These functionals are constructed using the link between exchange and kinetic energies and employ a generalized gradient approximation (GGA) for the enhancement factor, namely, the Perdew–Burke–Ernzerhof (PBE) one. Two of them, named APBEK and revAPBEK, recover in the slowly varying density limit the modified second-order gradient (MGE2) expansion of the KE, which is valid for a neutral atom with a large number of electrons. APBEK contains no empirical parameters, while revAPBEK has one empirical parameter derived from exchange energies, which leads to a higher degree of nonlocality. The other two functionals, APBEKint and revAPBEKint, modify the APBEK and revAPBEK enhancement factors, respectively, to recover the second-order gradient expansion (GE2) of the homogeneous electron gas. We first benchmarked the total KE of atoms/ions and jellium spheres/surfaces: we found that functionals based on the MGE2 are as accurate as the current state-of-the-art KE functionals, containing several empirical parameters. Then, we verified the accuracy of these new functionals in the context of the frozen density embedding (FDE) theory. We benchmarked 20 systems with nonbonded interactions, and we considered embedding errors in the energy and density. We found that all of the PBE-like functionals give accurate and similar embedded densities, but the revAPBEK and revAPBEKint functionals have a significant superior accuracy for the embedded energy, outperforming the current state-of-the-art GGA approaches. While the revAPBEK functional is more accurate than revAPBEKint, APBEKint is better than APBEK. To rationalize this performance, we introduce the reduced-gradient decomposition of the nonadditive kinetic energy, and we discuss how systems with different interactions can be described with the same functional form.