The electronic couplings in electron transfer and excitation energy transfer

Chao-Ping Hsu
Accounts of Chemical Research 2009 April 21, 42 (4): 509-18
The transport of charge via electrons and the transport of excitation energy via excitons are two processes of fundamental importance in diverse areas of research. Characterization of electron transfer (ET) and excitation energy transfer (EET) rates are essential for a full understanding of, for instance, biological systems (such as respiration and photosynthesis) and opto-electronic devices (which interconvert electric and light energy). In this Account, we examine one of the parameters, the electronic coupling factor, for which reliable values are critical in determining transfer rates. Although ET and EET are different processes, many strategies for calculating the couplings share common themes. We emphasize the similarities in basic assumptions between the computational methods for the ET and EET couplings, examine the differences, and summarize the properties, advantages, and limits of the different computational methods. The electronic coupling factor is an off-diagonal Hamiltonian matrix element between the initial and final diabatic states in the transport processes. ET coupling is essentially the interaction of the two molecular orbitals (MOs) where the electron occupancy is changed. Singlet excitation energy transfer (SEET), however, contains a Frster dipole-dipole coupling as its most important constituent. Triplet excitation energy transfer (TEET) involves an exchange of two electrons of different spin and energy; thus, it is like an overlap interaction of two pairs of MOs. Strategies for calculating ET and EET couplings can be classified as (1) energy-gap-based approaches, (2) direct calculation of the off-diagonal matrix elements, or (3) use of an additional operator to describe the extent of charge or excitation localization and to calculate the coupling value. Some of the difficulties in calculating the couplings were recently resolved. Methods were developed to remove the nondynamical correlation problem from the highly precise coupled cluster models for ET coupling. It is now possible to obtain reliable ET couplings from entry-level excited-state Hamiltonians. A scheme to calculate the EET coupling in a general class of systems, regardless of the contributing terms, was also developed. In the past, empirically derived parameters were heavily invoked in model description of charge and excitation energy drifts in a solid-state device. Recent advances, including the methods described in this Account, permit the first-principle quantum mechanical characterization of one class of the parameters in such descriptions, enhancing the predictive power and allowing a deeper understanding of the systems involved.

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