JACS Au. 2022 Jun 16;2(6):1383-1394. doi: 10.1021/jacsau.2c00085. eCollection 2022 Jun 27.
Locality in physical space is critical in understanding chemical reactivity in the analysis of various phenomena and processes in chemistry, biology, and materials science, as exemplified in the concepts of reactive functional groups and active sites. Frontier molecular orbitals (FMOs) pinpoint the locality of chemical bonds that are chemically reactive because of the associated orbital energies and thus have achieved great success in describing chemical reactivity, mainly for small systems. For large systems, however, the delocalization nature of canonical molecular orbitals makes it difficult for FMOs to highlight the locality of the chemical reactivity. To obtain localized molecular orbitals that also reflect the frontier nature of the chemical processes, we develop the concept of frontier molecular orbitalets (FMOLs) for describing the reactivity of large systems. The concept of orbitalets was developed recently in the localized orbital scaling correction method, which aims for eliminating the delocalization error in common density functional approximations. Orbitalets are localized in both physical and energy spaces and thus contain both orbital locality and energy information. The FMOLs are thus the orbitalets with energies highest among occupied orbitalets and lowest among unoccupied ones. The applications of FMOLs to hexadeca-1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15-octaene in its equilibrium geometry, inter- and intra-molecular charge-transfer systems, and two transition states of a bifurcating reaction demonstrate that FMOLs can connect quantum mechanical treatments of chemical systems and chemical reactivities by locating the reactive region of large chemical systems. Therefore, FMOLs extend the role of FMOs for small systems and describe the chemical reactivity of large systems with energy and locality insight, with potentially broad applications.