Shao, Yihan; Mei, Ye; Sundholm, Dage; Kaila, Ville R. I.
(2020)
Quantum chemical calculations are important for elucidating light-capturing mechanisms in photobiological systems. The time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) has become a popular methodology because of its balance between accuracy and computational scaling, despite its problems in describing, for example, charge transfer states. As a step toward systematically understanding the performance of TDDFT calculations on biomolecular systems, we study here 17 commonly used density functionals, including seven long-range separated functionals, and compare the obtained results with excitation energies calculated at the approximate second order coupled-cluster theory level (CC2). The benchmarking set includes the first five singlet excited states of 11 chemical analogues of biochromophores from the green fluorescent protein, rhodopsin/bacteriorhodopsin (Rh/bR), and the photoactive yellow protein. We find that commonly used pure density functionals such as BP86, PBE, M11-L, and hybrid functionals with 20-25% of Hartree-Fock (HF) exchange (B3LYP, PBE0) have a tendency to consistently underestimate vertical excitation energies (VEEs) relative to the CC2 values, whereas hybrid density functionals with around 50% HF exchange such as BHLYP, PBE50, and M06-2X and long-range corrected functionals such as CAM-B3LYP, omega PBE, omega PBEh, omega B97X, omega B97XD, BNL, and M11 overestimate the VEEs. We observe that calculations using the CAM-B3LYP and omega PBEh functionals with 65% and 100% long-range HF exchange, respectively, lead to an overestimation of the VEEs by 0.2-0.3 eV for the benchmarking set. To reduce the systematic error, we introduce here two new empirical functionals, CAMh-B3LYP and omega hPBE0, for which we adjusted the long-range HF exchange to 50%. The introduced parameterization reduces the mean signed average (MSA) deviation to 0.07 eV and the root mean square (rms) deviation to 0.17 eV as compared to the CC2 values. In the present study, TDDFT calculations using the aug-def2-TZVP basis sets, the best performing functionals relative to CC2 are omega hPBE0 (rms = 0.17, MSA = 0.06 eV); CAMh-B3LYP (rms = 0.16, MSA = 0.07 eV); and PBE0 (rms = 0.23, MSA = 0.14 eV). For the popular range-separated CAM-B3LYP functional, we obtain an rms value of 0.31 eV and an MSA value of 0.25 eV, which can be compared with the rms and MSA values of 0.37 and -0.31 eV, respectively, as obtained at the B3LYP level.