Gas-Phase Retinal Spectroscopy: Temperature Effects Are But a Mirage

O. Valsson, Claudia Filippi

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18 Citations (Scopus)


We employ state-of-the-art first-principle approaches to investigate whether temperature effects are responsible for the unusually broad and flat spectrum of protonated Schiff base retinal observed in photodissociation spectroscopy, as has recently been proposed. We first carefully calibrate how to construct a realistic geometrical model of retinal and show that the exchange–correlation M06-2X functional yields an accurate description while the commonly used complete active space self-consistent field method (CASSCF) is not adequate. Using modern multiconfigurational perturbative methods (NEVPT2) to compute the excitations, we then demonstrate that conformations with different orientations of the β-ionone ring are characterized by similar excitations. Moreover, other degrees of freedom identified as active in room-temperature molecular dynamics simulations do not yield the shift required to explain the anomalous spectral shape. Our findings indicate that photodissociation experiments are not representative of the optical spectrum of retinal in the gas phase and call for further experimental characterization of the dissociation spectra
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)908-912
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of physical chemistry letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • METIS-287581
  • IR-81179

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