Blog Archives

Percentage of Molecular Orbital Composition – G09,G16

Canonical Molecular Orbitals are–by construction–delocalized over the various atoms making up a molecule. In some contexts it is important to know how much of any given orbital is made up by a particular atom or group of atoms, and while you could calculate it by hand given the coefficients of each MO in terms of every AO (or basis set function) centered on each atom there is a straightforward way to do it in Gaussian.

If we’re talking about ‘dividing’ a molecular orbital into atomic components, we’re most definitely talking about population analysis calculations, so we’ll resort to the pop keyword and the orbitals option in the standard syntax:

#p M052x/cc-pVDZ pop=orbitals

This will produce the following output right after the Mulliken population analysis section:

Atomic contributions to Alpha molecular orbitals:
 Alpha occ 140 OE=-0.314 is Pt1-d=0.23 C38-p=0.16 C31-p=0.16 C36-p=0.16 C33-p=0.15
 Alpha occ 141 OE=-0.313 is Pt1-d=0.41
 Alpha occ 142 OE=-0.308 is Cl2-p=0.25
 Alpha occ 143 OE=-0.302 is Cl2-p=0.72 Pt1-d=0.18
 Alpha occ 144 OE=-0.299 is Cl2-p=0.11
 Alpha occ 145 OE=-0.298 is C65-p=0.11 C58-p=0.11 C35-p=0.11 C30-p=0.11
 Alpha occ 146 OE=-0.293 is C58-p=0.10
 Alpha occ 147 OE=-0.291 is C22-p=0.09
 Alpha occ 148 OE=-0.273 is Pt1-d=0.18 C11-p=0.12 C7-p=0.11
 Alpha occ 149 OE=-0.273 is Pt1-d=0.18
 Alpha vir 150 OE=-0.042 is C9-p=0.18 C13-p=0.18
 Alpha vir 151 OE=-0.028 is C7-p=0.25 C16-p=0.11 C44-p=0.11
 Alpha vir 152 OE=0.017 is Pt1-p=0.10
 Alpha vir 153 OE=0.021 is C36-p=0.15 C31-p=0.14 C63-p=0.12 C59-p=0.12 C38-p=0.11 C33-p=0.11
 Alpha vir 154 OE=0.023 is C36-p=0.13 C31-p=0.13 C63-p=0.11 C59-p=0.11
 Alpha vir 155 OE=0.027 is C65-p=0.11 C58-p=0.10
 Alpha vir 156 OE=0.029 is C35-p=0.14 C30-p=0.14 C65-p=0.12 C58-p=0.11
 Alpha vir 157 OE=0.032 is C52-p=0.09
 Alpha vir 158 OE=0.040 is C50-p=0.14 C22-p=0.13 C45-p=0.12 C17-p=0.11
 Alpha vir 159 OE=0.044 is C20-p=0.15 C48-p=0.14 C26-p=0.12 C54-p=0.11

Alpha and Beta densities are listed separately only in unrestricted calculations, otherwise only the first is printed. Each orbital is listed sequentially (occ = occupied; vir = virtual) with their energy value (OE = orbital energy) in atomic units following and then the fraction with which each atom contributes to each MO.

By default only the ten highest occupied orbitals and ten lowest virtual orbitals will be assessed, but the number of MOs to be analyzed can be modified with orbitals=N, if you want to have all orbitals analyzed then use the option AllOrbitals instead of just orbitals. Also, the threshold used for printing the composition is set to 10% but it can be modified with the option ThreshOrbitals=N, for the same compound as before here’s the output lines for HOMO and LUMO (MOs 149, 150) with ThreshOrbitals set to N=1, i.e. 1% as occupation threshold (ThreshOrbitals=1):

Alpha occ 149 OE=-0.273 is Pt1-d=0.18 N4-p=0.08 N6-p=0.08 C20-p=0.06 C13-p=0.06 C48-p=0.06 C9-p=0.06 C24-p=0.05 C52-p=0.05 C16-p=0.04 C44-p=0.04 C8-p=0.03 C15-p=0.03 C17-p=0.03 C45-p=0.02 C46-p=0.02 C18-p=0.02 C26-p=0.02 C54-p=0.02 N5-p=0.01 N3-p=0.01
Alpha vir 150 OE=-0.042 is C9-p=0.18 C13-p=0.18 C44-p=0.08 C16-p=0.08 C15-p=0.06 C8-p=0.06 N6-p=0.04 N4-p=0.04 C52-p=0.04 C24-p=0.04 N5-p=0.03 N3-p=0.03 C46-p=0.03 C18-p=0.03 C48-p=0.02 C20-p=0.02

The fragment=n label in the coordinates can be used as in BSSE Counterpoise calculations and the output will show the orbital composition by fragments with the label "Fr", grouping all contributions to the MO by the AOs centered on the atoms in that fragment.

As always, thanks for reading, sharing, and rating. I hope someone finds this useful.

Natural Transition Orbitals (NTOs) Gaussian

The canonical molecular orbital depiction of an electronic transition is often a messy business in terms of a ‘chemical‘ interpretation of ‘which electrons‘ go from ‘which occupied orbitals‘ to ‘which virtual orbitals‘.

Natural Transition Orbitals provide a more intuitive picture of the orbitals, whether mixed or not, involved in any hole-particle excitation. This transformation is particularly useful when working with the excited states of molecules with extensively delocalized chromophores or multiple chromophoric sites. The elegance of the NTO method relies on its simplicity: separate unitary transformations are performed on the occupied and on the virtual set of orbitals in order to get a localized picture of the transition density matrix.

[1] R. L. Martin, J. Chem. Phys., 2003, DOI:10.1063/1.1558471.

In Gaussian09:
After running a TD-DFT calculation with the keyword TD(Nstates=n) (where n = number of states to be requested) we need to take that result and launch a new calculation for the NTOs but lets take it one step at a time. As an example here’s phenylalanine which was already optimized to a minimum at the B3LYP/6-31G(d,p) level of theory. If we take that geometry and launch a new calculation with the TD(Nstates=40) in the route section we obtain the UV-Vis spectra and the output looks like this (only the first three states are shown):

Excitation energies and oscillator strengths:

Excited State 1: Singlet-A 5.3875 eV 230.13 nm f=0.0015 <S**2>=0.000
42 -> 46 0.17123
42 -> 47 0.12277
43 -> 46 -0.40383
44 -> 45 0.50838
44 -> 47 0.11008
This state for optimization and/or second-order correction.
Total Energy, E(TD-HF/TD-KS) = -554.614073682
Copying the excited state density for this state as the 1-particle RhoCI density.

Excited State 2: Singlet-A 5.5137 eV 224.86 nm f=0.0138 <S**2>=0.000
41 -> 45 -0.20800
41 -> 47 0.24015
42 -> 45 0.32656
42 -> 46 0.10906
42 -> 47 -0.24401
43 -> 45 0.20598
43 -> 47 -0.14839
44 -> 45 -0.15344
44 -> 47 0.34182

Excited State 3: Singlet-A 5.9254 eV 209.24 nm f=0.0042 <S**2>=0.000
41 -> 45 0.11844
41 -> 47 -0.12539
42 -> 45 -0.10401
42 -> 47 0.16068
43 -> 45 -0.27532
43 -> 46 -0.11640
43 -> 47 0.16780
44 -> 45 -0.18555
44 -> 46 -0.29184
44 -> 47 0.43124

The oscillator strength is listed on each Excited State as “f” and it is a measure of the probability of that excitation to occur. If we look at the third one for this phenylalanine we see f=0.0042, a very low probability, but aside from that the following list shows what orbital transitions compose that excitation and with what energy, so the first line indicates a transition from orbital 41 (HOMO-3) to orbital 45 (LUMO); there are 10 such transitions composing that excitation, visualizing them all with canonical orbitals is not an intuitive picture, so lets try the NTO approach, we’re going to take excitation #10 for phenylalanine as an example just because it has a higher oscillation strength:

%chk=Excited State 10: Singlet-A 7.1048 eV 174.51 nm f=0.3651 <S**2>=0.000
41 -> 45 0.35347
41 -> 47 0.34685
42 -> 45 0.10215
42 -> 46 0.17248
42 -> 47 0.13523
43 -> 45 -0.26596
43 -> 47 -0.22995
44 -> 46 0.23277

Each set of NTOs for each transition must be calculated separately. First, copy you filename.chk file from the TD-DFT result to a new one and name it after the Nth state of interest as shown below (state 10 in this case). NOTE: In the route section, replace N with the number of the excitation of interest according to the results in filename.log. Run separately for each transition your interested in:


#p B3LYP/6-31G(d,p) Geom=AllCheck Guess=(Read,Only) Density=(Check,Transition=N) Pop=(Minimal,NTO,SaveNTO)

0 1
--blank line--

By requesting SaveNTO, the canonical orbitals in the state10.chk file are replaced with the NTOs for the 10th excitation, this makes it easier to plot since most visualizers just plot whatever set of orbitals they read in the chk file but if they find the canonical MOs then one would need to do some re-processing of them. This is much more straightforward.

Now we format our chk files into fchk with the formchk utility:

formchk -3 filename.chk filename.fchk
formchk -3 state10.chk state10.fchk

If we open filename.fchk (the file where the original TD-DFT calculation is located) with GaussView we can plot all orbitals involved in excited state number ten, those would be seven orbitals from 41 (HOMO-3) to 47 (LUMO+2) as shown in figure 1.

Figure 1. Canonical orbitals involved in the 10th excited state according to the TD-DFT calculation

If we now open state10.fchk we see that the numbers at the side of the orbitals are not their energy but their occupation number particular to this state of interest, so we only need to plot those with highest occupations, in our example those are orbitals 44 and 45 (HOMO and LUMO) which have occupations = 0.81186; you may include 43 and 46 (HOMO-1 and LUMO+1, respectively) for a much more complete description (occupations = 0.18223) but we’re still dealing with 4 orbitals instead of 7.

Figure 2. Natural Transition Orbitals for Phenylalanine. Orbital 44 (particle) and Orbital 45 (hole) exhibit the largest occupations for Excited State No. 10

The NTO transition 44 -> 45 is far easier to conceptualize than all the 10 combinations given in the canonical basis from the direct TD-DFT calculation. TD-DFT provides us with the correct transitions, NTOs just paint us a picture more readily available to the chemist mindset.

NOTE: for G09 revC and above, the %OldChk option is available, I haven’t personally tried it but using it to specify where the excitations are located and then write the NTOs of interest into a new chk file in the following way, thus eliminating the need of copying the original chk file for each state:


NTOs are based on the Natural Hybrid orbitals vision by Löwdin and others, and it is said to be so straightforward that it has been re-discovered from time to time. Be that as it may, the NTO visualization provides a much clearer vision of the excitations occurring during a TD calculation.

Thanks for reading, stay home and stay safe during these harsh days everyone. Please share, rate and comment this and other posts.

The HOMO-LUMO Gap in Open Shell Calculations. Meaningful or meaningless?

The HOMO – LUMO orbitals are central to the Frontier Molecular Orbital (FMO) Theory devised by Kenichi Fukui back in the fifties. The central tenet of the FMO theory resides on the idea that most of chemical reactivity is dominated by the interaction between these orbitals in an electron donor-acceptor pair, in which the most readily available electrons of the former arise from the HOMO and will land at the LUMO in the latter. The energy difference between the HOMO and LUMO of any chemical species, known as the HOMO-LUMO gap, is a very useful quantity for describing and understanding the photochemistry and photophysics of organic molecules since most of the electronic transitions in the UV-Vis region are dominated by the electron transfer between these two frontier orbitals.

But when we talk about Frontier Orbitals we’re usually referring to their doubly occupied version; in the case of open shell calculations the electron density with α spin is separate from the one with β spin, therefore giving rise to two separate sets of singly occupied orbitals and those in turn have a α-HOMO/LUMO and β-HOMO/LUMO, although SOMO (Singly Occupied Molecular Orbital) is the preferred nomenclature. Most people will then dismiss the HOMO/LUMO question for open shell systems as meaningless because ultimately we are dealing with two different sets of molecular orbitals. Usually the approach is to work backwards when investigating the optical transitions of a, say, organic radical, e.g. by calculating the transitions with such methods like TD-DFT (Time Dependent DFT) and look to the main orbital components of each within the set of α and β densities.

To the people who have asked me this question I strongly suggest to first try Restricted Open calculations, RODFT, which pair all electrons and treat them with identical orbitals and treat the unpaired ones independently. As a consequence, RO calculations and Unrestricted calculations vary due to variational freedom. RO calculations could yield wavefunctions with small to large values of spin contamination, so beware. Or just go straight to TDDFT calculations with hybrid orbitals which include a somewhat large percentage of HF exchange and polarized basis sets, but to always compare results to experimental values, if available, since DFT based calculations are Kohn-Sham orbitals which are defined for non-interacting electrons so the energy can be biased. Performing CI or CASSCF calculations is almost always prohibitive for systems of chemical interest but of course they would be the way to go.

No, seriously, why can’t orbitals be observed?

The concept of electronic orbital has become such a useful and engraved tool in understanding chemical structure and reactivity that it has almost become one of those things whose original meaning has been lost and replaced for a utilitarian concept, one which is not bad in itself but that may lead to some wrong conclusions when certain fundamental facts are overlooked.

Last week a wrote -what I thought was- a humorous post on this topic because a couple of weeks ago a viewpoint in JPC-A was published by Pham and Gordon on the possibility of observing molecular orbitals through microscopy methods, which elicited a ‘seriously? again?‘ reaction from me, since I distinctly remember the Nature article by Zuo from the year 2000 when I just had entered graduate school. The article is titled “direct observation of d-orbital holes.” We discussed this paper in class and the discussion it prompted was very interesting at various levels: for starters, the allegedly observed d-orbital was strikingly similar to a dz2, which we had learned in class (thanks, prof. Carlos Amador!) that is actually a linear combination of d(z2-x2) and d(z2-y2) orbitals, a mathematical -lets say- trick to conform to spectroscopic observations.

Pham and Gordon are pretty clear in their first paragraph: “The wave function amplitude Ψ*Ψ is interpreted as the probability density. All observable atomic or molecular properties are determined by the probability and a corresponding quantum mechanical operator, not by the wave function itself. Wave functions, even exact wave functions, are not observables.” There is even another problem, about which I wrote a post long time ago: orbitals are non-unique, this means that I could get a set of orbitals by solving the Schrödinger equation for any given molecule and then perform a unit transformation on them (such as renormalizing them, re-orthonormalizing them to get a localized version, or even hybridizing them) and the electronic density derived from them would be the same! In quantum mechanical terms this means that the probability density associated with the wave function internal product, Ψ*Ψ, is not changed upon unit transformations; why then would a specific version be “observed” under a microscope? As Pham and Gordon state more eloquently it has to do with the Density of States (DOS) rather than with the orbitals. Furthermore, an orbital, or more precisely a spinorbital, is conveniently (in math terms) separated into a radial, an angular and a spin component R(r)Ylm(θ,φ)σ(α,β) with the angular part given by the spherical harmonic functions Ylm(θ,φ), which in turn -when plotted in spherical coordinates- create the famous lobes we all chemists know and love. Zuo’s observation claim was based on the resemblance of the observed density to the angular part of an atomic orbital. Another thing, orbitals have phases, no experimental observation claims to have resolved those.

Now, I may be entering a dangerous comparison but, can you observe a 2? If you say you just did, well, that “2” is just a symbol used to represent a quantity: two, the cardinality of a set containing two elements. You might as well depict such quantity as “II” or “⋅⋅” but still cannot observe “a two”. (If any mathematician is reading this, please, be gentle.) I know a number and a function are different, sorry if I’m just rambling here and overextending a metaphor.

Pretending to having observed an orbital through direct experimental methods is to neglect the Born interpretation of the wave function, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and even Schrödinger’s cat! (I know, I know, Schrödinger came up with this gedankenexperiment in order to refute the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, but it seems like after all the cat is still not out of the box!)

So, the take home message from the viewpoint in JPC is that molecular properties are defined by the expected values of a given wave function for a specific quantum mechanical operator of the property under investigation and not from the wave function itself. Wave functions are not observables and although some imaging techniques seem to accomplish a formidable task the physical impossibility hints to a misinterpretation of facts.

I think I’ll write more about this in a future post but for now, my take home message is to keep in mind that orbitals are wave functions and therefore are not more observable (as in imaging) than a partition function is in statistical mechanics.

%d bloggers like this: