Benchmark and performance of long-range corrected time-dependent density functional tight binding (LC-TD-DFTB) on rhodopsins and light-harvesting complexes.


Institute of Physical Chemistry, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Kaiserstrasse 12, 76131 Karlsruhe, Germany. [Email]


The chromophores of rhodopsins (Rh) and light-harvesting (LH) complexes still represent a major challenge for a quantum chemical description due to their size and complex electronic structure. Since gradient corrected and hybrid density functional approaches have been shown to fail for these systems, only range-separated functionals seem to be a promising alternative to the more time consuming post-Hartree-Fock approaches. For extended sampling of optical properties, however, even more approximate approaches are required. Recently, a long-range corrected (LC) functional has been implemented into the efficient density functional tight binding (DFTB) method, allowing to sample the excited states properties of chromophores embedded into proteins using quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical (QM/MM) with the time-dependent (TD) DFTB approach. In the present study, we assess the accuracy of LC-TD-DFT and LC-TD-DFTB for rhodopsins (bacteriorhodopsin (bR) and pharaonis phoborhodopsin (ppR)) and LH complexes (light-harvesting complex II (LH2) and Fenna-Matthews-Olson (FMO) complex). This benchmark study shows the improved description of the color tuning parameters compared to standard DFT functionals. In general, LC-TD-DFTB can exhibit a similar performance as the corresponding LC functionals, allowing a reliable description of excited states properties at significantly reduced cost. The two chromophores investigated here pose complementary challenges: while huge sensitivity to external field perturbation (color tuning) and charge transfer excitations are characteristic for the retinal chromophore, the multi-chromophoric character of the LH complexes emphasizes a correct description of inter-chromophore couplings, giving less importance to color tuning. None of the investigated functionals masters both systems simultaneously with satisfactory accuracy. LC-TD-DFTB, at the current stage, although showing a systematic improvement compared to TD-DFTB cannot be recommended for studying color tuning in retinal proteins, similar to some of the LC-DFT functionals, because the response to external fields is still too weak. For sampling of LH-spectra, however, LC-TD-DFTB is a viable tool, allowing to efficiently sample absorption energies, as shown for three different LH complexes. As the calculations indicate, geometry optimization may overestimate the importance of local minima, which may be averaged over when using trajectories. Fast quantum chemical approaches therefore may allow for a direct sampling of spectra in the near future.

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