Accurate Prediction of the S1 Excitation Energy in Solvated Azobenzene Derivatives via Embedded Orbital-Tuned Bethe-Salpeter Calculations

By employing the Bethe-Salpeter formalism with a non-equilibrium embedding scheme, we demonstrate that the paradigmatic case of S1 band separation between cis and trans in azobenzene derivatives can be computed with excellent accuracy compared to experimental optical spectra. Besides embedding, we show that the choice of the Kohn-Sham exchange correlation functional for DFT is critical, despite the iterative convergence of GW quasiparticle energies. We address this by using a global hybrid functional, PBEh, with the amount of exact exchange fulfilling the Koopman’s theorem for DFT hence yielding an environment-consistent ionization potential.
This method yields the first vertical excitation energy of 20 azo molecules with a mean absolute error as low as 0.06 eV, up to three times smaller compared to standard functionals such as M06-2X and PBE0, and five times smaller compared to recent TDDFT results.