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Density functional theory (DFT) has become the computational method of choice for modeling and characterization of carbon dioxide adsorbents, a broad family of materials which at present are urgently sought after for environmental applications. The description of polar carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules in low-coordinated environments like surfaces and porous materials, however, may be challenging for local and semi-local DFT approximations. Here, we present a thorough computational study in which the accuracy of DFT methods in describing the interactions of CO2 with model alkali–earth–metal (AEM, Ca and Li) decorated carbon structures, namely anthracene (C14H10) molecules, is assessed. We find that gas-adsorption energies and equilibrium structures obtained with standard (i.e. LDA and GGA), hybrid (i.e. PBE0 and B3LYP) and van der Waals exchange–correlation functionals of DFT dramatically differ from the results obtained with second-order Møller–Plesset perturbation theory (MP2), an accurate computational quantum chemistry method. The major disagreements found can be mostly rationalized in terms of electron correlation errors that lead to wrong charge-transfer and electrostatic Coulomb interactions between CO2 and AEM-decorated anthracene molecules. Nevertheless, we show that when the concentration of AEM atoms in anthracene is tuned to resemble as closely as possible the electronic structure of AEM-decorated graphene (i.e. an extended two-dimensional material), hybrid exchange–correlation DFT and MP2 methods quantitatively provide similar results.
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