Progress in our understanding of ultrafast light-induced processes in molecules is best achieved through a close combination of experimental and theoretical approaches. Direct comparison is obtained if theory is able to directly reproduce experimental observables. Here, we present a joint approach comparing time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (TRPES) with ab initio multiple spawning (AIMS) simulations on the MS-MR-CASPT2 level of theory. We disentangle the relationship between two phenomena that dominate the immediate molecular response upon light absorption: a spectrally dependent delay of the photoelectron signal and an induction time prior to excited state depopulation in dynamics simulations. As a benchmark molecule, we have chosen hexamethylcyclopentadiene, which shows an unprecedentedly large spectral delay of (310 20) fs in TRPES experiments. For the dynamics simulations, methyl groups were replaced by ‘‘hydrogen atoms’’ having mass 15 and TRPES spectra were calculated. These showed an induction time of (108 10) fs which could directly be assigned to progress along a torsional mode leading to the intersection seam with the molecular ground state. In a stepladder-type approach, the close connection between the two phenomena could be elucidated, allowing for a comparison with other polyenes and supporting the general validity of this finding for their excited state dynamics. Thus, the combination of TRPES and AIMS proves to be a powerful tool for a thorough understanding of ultrafast excited state dynamics in polyenes.
Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, 2014, Vol 16, p. 11770-11779