DOI: 10.1063/5.0180405 ISSN: 0021-9606

Beyond the Condon limit: Condensed phase optical spectra from atomistic simulations

Zachary R. Wiethorn, Kye E. Hunter, Tim J. Zuehlsdorff, Andrés Montoya-Castillo
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • General Physics and Astronomy

While dark transitions made bright by molecular motions determine the optoelectronic properties of many materials, simulating such non-Condon effects in condensed phase spectroscopy remains a fundamental challenge. We derive a Gaussian theory to predict and analyze condensed phase optical spectra beyond the Condon limit. Our theory introduces novel quantities that encode how nuclear motions modulate the energy gap and transition dipole of electronic transitions in the form of spectral densities. By formulating the theory through a statistical framework of thermal averages and fluctuations, we circumvent the limitations of widely used microscopically harmonic theories, allowing us to tackle systems with generally anharmonic atomistic interactions and non-Condon fluctuations of arbitrary strength. We show how to calculate these spectral densities using first-principles simulations, capturing realistic molecular interactions and incorporating finite-temperature, disorder, and dynamical effects. Our theory accurately predicts the spectra of systems known to exhibit strong non-Condon effects (phenolate in various solvents) and reveals distinct mechanisms for electronic peak splitting: timescale separation of modes that tune non-Condon effects and spectral interference from correlated energy gap and transition dipole fluctuations. We further introduce analysis tools to identify how intramolecular vibrations, solute–solvent interactions, and environmental polarization effects impact dark transitions. Moreover, we prove an upper bound on the strength of cross correlated energy gap and transition dipole fluctuations, thereby elucidating a simple condition that a system must follow for our theory to accurately predict its spectrum.

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