Nonadiabatic Molecular Dynamics Simulations: Synergies between Theory and Experiments

CONSPECTUS: Recent developments in nonadiabatic dynamics enabled ab inito simulations of complex ultrafast processes in the condensed phase. These advances have opened new avenues in the study of many photophysical and photochemical reactions triggered by the absorption of electromagnetic radiation. In particular, theoretical investigations can be combined with the most sophisticated femtosecond experimental techniques to guide the interpretation of measured time-resolved observables. At the same time, the availability of experimental data at high (spatial and time) resolution offers a unique opportunity for the benchmarking and the improvement of those theoretical models used to describe complex molecular systems in their natural environment. The established synergy between theory and experiments can produce a better understanding of new ultrafast physical and chemical processes at atomistic scale resolution. Furthermore, reliable ab inito molecular dynamics simulations can already be successfully employed as predictive tools to guide new experiments as well as the design of novel and better performing materials. In this paper, I will give a concise account on the state of the art of molecular dynamics simulations of complex molecular systems in their excited states. The principal aim of this approach is the description of a given system of interest under the most realistic ambient conditions including all environmental effects that influence experiments, for instance, the interaction with the solvent and with external time-dependent electric fields, temperature, and pressure. To this end, time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) is among the most efficient and accurate methods for the representation of the electronic dynamics, while trajectory surface hopping gives a valuable representation of the nuclear quantum dynamics in the excited states (including nonadiabatic effects). Concerning the environment and its effects on the dynamics, the quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) approach has the advantage of providing an atomistic (even though approximated) description of the solvent molecules, which is crucial for the characterization of all ultrafast relaxation phenomena that depend on the geometrical arrangement at the interface between a molecule and the solvent, for example, the hydrogen bond network. After a short description of the TDDFT-based implementation of Ehrenfest and trajectory surface hopping dynamics, I will present applications in different domains of molecular chemistry and physics: the analysis and the understanding of (time-resolved) X-ray absorption spectra, the interpretation of the ultrafast relaxation dynamics of photoexcited dyes in solution, and the design of specific laser pulses (capable of inducing desired chemical reactions) using local control theory.


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