Nonadiabatic excited-state molecular dynamics: Modeling photophysics in organic conjugated materials

Tammie Nelson, Sebastian Fernandez-Alberti, Adrian E. Roitberg, Sergei Tretiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Citations (Scopus)


ConspectusTo design functional photoactive materials for a variety of technological applications, researchers need to understand their electronic properties in detail and have ways to control their photoinduced pathways. When excited by photons of light, organic conjugated materials (OCMs) show dynamics that are often characterized by large nonadiabatic (NA) couplings between multiple excited states through a breakdown of the Born-Oppenheimer (BO) approximation. Following photoexcitation, various nonradiative intraband relaxation pathways can lead to a number of complex processes. Therefore, computational simulation of nonadiabatic molecular dynamics is an indispensable tool for understanding complex photoinduced processes such as internal conversion, energy transfer, charge separation, and spatial localization of excitons.Over the years, we have developed a nonadiabatic excited-state molecular dynamics (NA-ESMD) framework that efficiently and accurately describes photoinduced phenomena in extended conjugated molecular systems. We use the fewest-switches surface hopping (FSSH) algorithm to treat quantum transitions among multiple adiabatic excited state potential energy surfaces (PESs). Extended molecular systems often contain hundreds of atoms and involve large densities of excited states that participate in the photoinduced dynamics. We can achieve an accurate description of the multiple excited states using the configuration interaction single (CIS) formalism with a semiempirical model Hamiltonian. Analytical techniques allow the trajectory to be propagated "on the fly" using the complete set of NA coupling terms and remove computational bottlenecks in the evaluation of excited-state gradients and NA couplings. Furthermore, the use of state-specific gradients for propagation of nuclei on the native excited-state PES eliminates the need for simplifications such as the classical path approximation (CPA), which only uses ground-state gradients. Thus, the NA-ESMD methodology offers a computationally tractable route for simulating hundreds of atoms on ∼10 ps time scales where multiple coupled excited states are involved.In this Account, we review recent developments in the NA-ESMD modeling of photoinduced dynamics in extended conjugated molecules involving multiple coupled electronic states. We have successfully applied the outlined NA-ESMD framework to study ultrafast conformational planarization in polyfluorenes where the rate of torsional relaxation can be controlled based on the initial excitation. With the addition of the state reassignment algorithm to identify instances of unavoided crossings between noninteracting PESs, NA-ESMD can now be used to study systems in which these so-called trivial unavoided crossings are expected to predominate. We employ this technique to analyze the energy transfer between poly(phenylene vinylene) (PPV) segments where conformational fluctuations give rise to numerous instances of unavoided crossings leading to multiple pathways and complex energy transfer dynamics that cannot be described using a simple Förster model. In addition, we have investigated the mechanism of ultrafast unidirectional energy transfer in dendrimers composed of poly(phenylene ethynylene) (PPE) chromophores and have demonstrated that differential nuclear motion favors downhill energy transfer in dendrimers. The use of native excited-state gradients allows us to observe this feature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1155-1164
Number of pages10
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


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