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Higher-Energy Charge Transfer States Facilitate Charge Separation in Donor–Acceptor Molecular Dyads


We simulate subpicosecond charge separation in two donor-acceptor molecular dyads. Charge separation dynamics is described using a quantum master equation, with parameters of the dyad Hamiltonian obtained from density functional theory (DFT) and time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) calculations and the rate of energy dissipation estimated from Ehrenfest-TDDFT molecular dynamics simulations. We find that higher-energy charge transfer states must be included in the dyad Hamiltonian in order to obtain agreement of charge separation rates with the experimental values. Our results show that efficient and irreversible charge separation involves both coherent electron transfer from the donor excited state to higher-energy unoccupied states on the acceptor and incoherent energy dissipation that relaxes the dyad to the lowest energy charge transfer state. The role of coherence depends on the initial excited state, with electron delocalization within Hamiltonian eigenstates found to be more important than coherence between eigenstates. We conclude that ultrafast charge separation is most likely to occur in donor-acceptor dyads possessing dense manifolds of charge transfer states at energies close to those of Frenkel excitons on the donor, with strong couplings to these states enabling partial delocalization of eigenstates over acceptor and donor.

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