Singlet Fission Rate: Optimized Packing of a Molecular Pair. Ethylene as a Model

Alexandr Zaykov Petr Felkel Eric A. Buchanan Milena Jovanovic Remco W. A. Havenith R. K. Kathir Ria Broer Zdenk Havlas Josef Michl
Journal of the American Chemical Society 141(44):17729-17743, 2019
A procedure is described for unbiased identification of all p-electron chromophore pair geometry choices that locally maximize the rate of conversion of a singlet exciton into a singlet biexciton (triplet pair), using a simplified version of the diabatic frontier orbital model of singlet fission (SF). The resulting approximate optimal geometries provide insight and are expected to represent useful starting points for searches by more advanced methods. The general procedure is illustrated on a pair of ethylenes as the simplest model of a p-electron system, but it is applicable to pairs of much larger molecules, with dozens of non-hydrogen atoms, and not necessarily planar. We first examine the value of |TA|2, the square of the electronic matrix element for SF with initial excitation fully localized on partner A, on a grid of several billion geometries within the six-dimensional space of physically realizable possibilities. Several of the optimized pair geometries are somewhat unexpected, but all are found to follow the qualitative guidance proposed earlier. In the neighborhood of each local maximum of |TA|2, consideration of mixing with charge-transfer configurations and of excitonic interaction between partners A and B determines the SF energy balance and yields squared matrix elements |T*|2 and |T**|2 for the lower and upper excitonic states S* and S**, respectively. Assuming Boltzmann populations of these states, the geometry is further optimized to maximize k, the sum of the SF rates obtained from Marcus theory, and this reorders the suitable geometries substantially. At 87 pair geometries, the |T*|2 and |T**|2 values are compared with those obtained from high-level ab initio nonorthogonal configuration interaction calculations and found to follow the same trend. Finally, the biexciton binding energy at the optimized geometries is calculated. Altogether, 13 significant local maxima of SF rate for a pair of ethylenes are identified in the physically relevant part of space that avoids molecular interpenetration in the hard-sphere approximation. The three best geometries are twist-stacked, slip-stacked, and L-shaped. The maxima occur at the (five-dimensional) surfaces of seven six-dimensional “parent” regions of space centered at physically inaccessible geometries at which the calculated SF rate is very large but the two ethylenes interpenetrate. The results are displayed in interactive graphics. The computer code (“Simple”) written for these calculations is flexible in that it permits a choice of performing the search for local maxima in six dimensions on |TA|2, |T*|2, or k.