We report a detailed theoretical study of the structural and vibrational properties of solid nitromethane using first principles density functional calculations. The ground state properties were calculated using a plane wave pseudopotential code with either the local density approximation, the generalized gradient approximation, or with a correction to include van der Waals interactions. Our calculated equilibrium lattice parameters and volume using a dispersion correction are found to be in reasonable agreement with the experimental results. Also, our calculations reproduce the experimental trends in the structural properties at high pressure. We found a discontinuity in the bond length, bond angles, and also a weakening of hydrogen bond strength in the pressure range from 10 to 12 GPa, picturing the structural transition from phase I to phase II. Moreover, we predict the elastic constants of solid nitromethane and find that the corresponding bulk modulus is in good agreement with experiments. The calculated elastic constants show an order of C-11> C-22 > C-33, indicating that the material is more compressible along the c-axis. We also calculated the zone center vibrational frequencies and discuss the internal and external modes of this material under pressure. From this, we found the softening of lattice modes around 8-11 GPa. We have also attempted the quasiparticle band structure of solid nitromethane with the G(0)W(0) approximation and found that nitromethane is an indirect band gap insulator with a value of the band gap of about 7.8 eV with G(0)W(0) approximation. Finally, the optical properties of this material, namely the absorptive and dispersive part of the dielectric function, and the refractive index and absorption spectra are calculated and the contribution of different transition peaks of the absorption spectra are analyzed. The static dielectric constant and refractive indices along the three inequivalent crystallographic directions indicate that this material has a considerable optical anisotropy. (C) 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.
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