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JOURNAL ARTICLE

A correlated electron view of singlet fission

Paul M Zimmerman, Charles B Musgrave, Martin Head-Gordon
Accounts of Chemical Research 2013 June 18, 46 (6): 1339-47
23427823
Singlet fission occurs when a single exciton splits into multiple electron-hole pairs, and could dramatically increase the efficiency of organic solar cells by converting high energy photons into multiple charge carriers. Scientists might exploit singlet fission to its full potential by first understanding the underlying mechanism of this quantum mechanical process. The pursuit of this fundamental mechanism has recently benefited from the development and application of new correlated wave function methods. These methods-called restricted active space spin flip-can capture the most important electron interactions in molecular materials, such as acene crystals, at low computational cost. It is unrealistic to use previous wave function methods due to the excessive computational cost involved in simulating realistic molecular structures at a meaningful level of electron correlation. In this Account, we describe how we use these techniques to compute single exciton and multiple exciton excited states in tetracene and pentacene crystals in order to understand how a single exciton generated from photon absorption undergoes fission to generate two triplets. Our studies indicate that an adiabatic charge transfer intermediate is unlikely to contribute significantly to the fission process because it lies too high in energy. Instead, we propose a new mechanism that involves the direct coupling of an optically allowed single exciton to an optically dark multiexciton. This coupling is facilitated by intermolecular motion of two acene monomers that drives nonadiabatic population transfer between the two states. This transfer occurs in the limit of near degeneracies between adiabatic states where the Born-Oppenheimer approximation of fixed nuclei is no longer valid. Existing theories for singlet fission have not considered this type of coupling between states and, therefore, cannot describe this mechanism. The direct mechanism through intermolecular motion describes many experimentally observed characteristics of these materials, such as the ultrafast time scale of photobleaching and triplet generation during singlet fission in pentacene. We believe this newly discovered mechanism provides fundamental insight to guide the creation of new solar materials that exhibit high efficiencies through multiple charge generation.

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