Combining the ensemble and Franck-Condon approaches for calculating spectral shapes of molecules in solution.

Research paper by T J TJ Zuehlsdorff, C M CM Isborn

Indexed on: 15 Jan '18Published on: 15 Jan '18Published in: The Journal of chemical physics


The correct treatment of vibronic effects is vital for the modeling of absorption spectra of many solvated dyes. Vibronic spectra for small dyes in solution can be easily computed within the Franck-Condon approximation using an implicit solvent model. However, implicit solvent models neglect specific solute-solvent interactions on the electronic excited state. On the other hand, a straightforward way to account for solute-solvent interactions and temperature-dependent broadening is by computing vertical excitation energies obtained from an ensemble of solute-solvent conformations. Ensemble approaches usually do not account for vibronic transitions and thus often produce spectral shapes in poor agreement with experiment. We address these shortcomings by combining zero-temperature vibronic fine structure with vertical excitations computed for a room-temperature ensemble of solute-solvent configurations. In this combined approach, all temperature-dependent broadening is treated classically through the sampling of configurations and quantum mechanical vibronic contributions are included as a zero-temperature correction to each vertical transition. In our calculation of the vertical excitations, significant regions of the solvent environment are treated fully quantum mechanically to account for solute-solvent polarization and charge-transfer. For the Franck-Condon calculations, a small amount of frozen explicit solvent is considered in order to capture solvent effects on the vibronic shape function. We test the proposed method by comparing calculated and experimental absorption spectra of Nile red and the green fluorescent protein chromophore in polar and non-polar solvents. For systems with strong solute-solvent interactions, the combined approach yields significant improvements over the ensemble approach. For systems with weak to moderate solute-solvent interactions, both the high-energy vibronic tail and the width of the spectra are in excellent agreement with experiments.