DFTpy: An efficient and object-oriented platform for orbital-free DFT simulations

Xuecheng Shao, Kaili Jiang, Wenhui Mi, Alessandro Genova, Michele Pavanello

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


In silico materials design is hampered by the computational complexity of Kohn–Sham DFT, which scales cubically with the system size. Owing to the development of new-generation kinetic energy density functionals (KEDFs), orbital-free DFT (OFDFT) can now be successfully applied to a large class of semiconductors and such finite systems as quantum dots and metal clusters. In this work, we present DFTpy, an open-source software implementing OFDFT written entirely in Python 3 and outsourcing the computationally expensive operations to third-party modules, such as NumPy and SciPy. When fast simulations are in order, DFTpy exploits the fast Fourier transforms from PyFFTW. New-generation, nonlocal and density-dependent-kernel KEDFs are made computationally efficient by employing linear splines and other methods for fast kernel builds. We showcase DFTpy by solving for the electronic structure of a million-atom system of aluminum metal which was computed on a single CPU. The Python 3 implementation is object-oriented, opening the door to easy implementation of new features. As an example, we present a time-dependent OFDFT implementation (hydrodynamic DFT) which we use to compute the spectra of small metal clusters recovering qualitatively the time-dependent Kohn–Sham DFT result. The Python codebase allows for easy implementation of application programming interfaces. We showcase the combination of DFTpy and ASE for molecular dynamics simulations of liquid metals. DFTpy is released under the MIT license. This article is categorized under: Software > Quantum Chemistry Electronic Structure Theory > Density Functional Theory Data Science > Computer Algorithms and Programming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1482
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Computational Molecular Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Materials Chemistry


  • DFT
  • materials science


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