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Concept# Basis set (chemistry)

Summary

In theoretical and computational chemistry, a basis set is a set of functions (called basis functions) that is used to represent the electronic wave function in the Hartree–Fock method or density-functional theory in order to turn the partial differential equations of the model into algebraic equations suitable for efficient implementation on a computer.
The use of basis sets is equivalent to the use of an approximate resolution of the identity: the orbitals are expanded within the basis set as a linear combination of the basis functions , where the expansion coefficients are given by .
The basis set can either be composed of atomic orbitals (yielding the linear combination of atomic orbitals approach), which is the usual choice within the quantum chemistry community; plane waves which are typically used within the solid state community, or real-space approaches. Several types of atomic orbitals can be used: Gaussian-type orbitals, Slater-type orbitals, or numerical atomic orbitals. Out of the three, Gaussian-type orbitals are by far the most often used, as they allow efficient implementations of post-Hartree–Fock methods.
In modern computational chemistry, quantum chemical calculations are performed using a finite set of basis functions. When the finite basis is expanded towards an (infinite) complete set of functions, calculations using such a basis set are said to approach the complete basis set (CBS) limit. In this context, basis function and atomic orbital are sometimes used interchangeably, although the basis functions are usually not true atomic orbitals.
Within the basis set, the wavefunction is represented as a vector, the components of which correspond to coefficients of the basis functions in the linear expansion. In such a basis, one-electron operators correspond to matrices (a.k.a. rank two tensors), whereas two-electron operators are rank four tensors.
When molecular calculations are performed, it is common to use a basis composed of atomic orbitals, centered at each nucleus within the molecule (linear combination of atomic orbitals ansatz).

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