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[en] Polarizable continuum solvation models are nowadays the most popular approach to describe solvent effects in the context of quantum mechanical calculations. Unexpectedly, despite their widespread use in all branches of quantum chemistry and beyond, important aspects of both their theoretical formulation and numerical implementation are still not completely understood. In particular, in this perspective we focus on the numerical issues of their implementation when applied to large systems and on the theoretical framework needed to treat time dependent problems and excited states or to deal with electronic correlation. Possible extensions beyond a purely electrostatic model and generalizations to environments beyond common solvents are also critically presented and discussed. Finally, some possible new theoretical approaches and numerical strategies are suggested to overcome the obstacles which still prevent a full exploitation of these models.
[en] In this paper, we work out a parameterization of environmental noise within the Haken–Strobl–Reinenker (HSR) model for the PE545 light-harvesting complex, based on atomic-level quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) simulations. We use this approach to investigate the role of various auto- and cross-correlations in the HSR noise tensor, confirming that site-energy autocorrelations (pure dephasing) terms dominate the noise-induced exciton mobility enhancement, followed by site energy-coupling cross-correlations for specific triplets of pigments. Interestingly, several cross-correlations of the latter kind, together with coupling–coupling cross-correlations, display clear low-frequency signatures in their spectral densities in the 30–70 region. These slow components lie at the limits of validity of the HSR approach, which requires that environmental fluctuations be faster than typical exciton transfer time scales. We show that a simple coarse-grained elastic-network-model (ENM) analysis of the PE545 protein naturally spotlights collective normal modes in this frequency range that represent specific concerted motions of the subnetwork of cysteines covalenty linked to the pigments. This analysis strongly suggests that protein scaffolds in light-harvesting complexes are able to express specific collective, low-frequency normal modes providing a fold-rooted blueprint of exciton transport pathways. We speculate that ENM-based mixed quantum classical methods, such as Ehrenfest dynamics, might be promising tools to disentangle the fundamental designing principles of these dynamical processes in natural and artificial light-harvesting structures. (paper)
[en] The Polarizable Continuum Models (PCMs) are some of the most inexpensive yet successful methods for including the effects of solvation in quantum-mechanical calculations of molecular systems. However, when applied to the electronic excitation process, these methods are restricted to dichotomously assuming either that the solvent has completely equilibrated with the excited solute charge density (infinite-time limit), or that it retains the configuration that was in equilibrium with the solute prior to excitation (zero-time limit). This renders the traditional PCMs inappropriate for resolving time-dependent solvent effects on non-equilibrium solute electron dynamics like those implicated in the instants following photoexcitation of a solvated molecular species. To extend the existing methods to this non-equilibrium regime, we herein derive and apply a new formalism for a general time-dependent continuum embedding method designed to be propagated alongside the solute’s electronic degrees of freedom in the time domain. Given the frequency-dependent dielectric constant of the solvent, an equation of motion for the dielectric polarization is derived within the PCM framework and numerically integrated simultaneously with the time-dependent Hartree fock/density functional theory equations. Results for small molecular systems show the anticipated dipole quenching and electronic state dephasing/relaxation resulting from out-of-phase charge fluctuations in the dielectric and embedded quantum system
[en] We present the general theory and implementation of the Conductor-like Screening Model according to the recently developed ddCOSMO paradigm. The various quantities needed to apply ddCOSMO at different levels of theory, including quantum mechanical descriptions, are discussed in detail, with a particular focus on how to compute the integrals needed to evaluate the ddCOSMO solvation energy and its derivatives. The overall computational cost of a ddCOSMO computation is then analyzed and decomposed in the various steps: the different relative weights of such contributions are then discussed for both ddCOSMO and the fastest available alternative discretization to the COSMO equations. Finally, the scaling of the cost of the various steps with respect to the size of the solute is analyzed and discussed, showing how ddCOSMO opens significantly new possibilities when cheap or hybrid molecular mechanics/quantum mechanics methods are used to describe the solute