The poor scaling of many existing quantum mechanical methods with respect to the system size hinders their applications to large systems. In this tutorial review, we focus on latest research on linear-scaling or O(N) quantum mechanical methods for excited states. Based on the locality of quantum mechanical systems, O(N) quantum mechanical methods for excited states are comprised of two categories, the time-domain and frequency-domain methods. The former solves the dynamics of the electronic systems in real time while the latter involves direct evaluation of electronic response in the frequency-domain. The localized density matrix (LDM) method is the first and most mature linear-scaling quantum mechanical method for excited states. It has been implemented in time- and frequency-domains. The O(N) time-domain methods also include the approach that solves the time-dependent Kohn–Sham (TDKS) equation using the non-orthogonal localized molecular orbitals (NOLMOs). Besides the frequency-domain LDM method, other O(N) frequency-domain methods have been proposed and implemented at the first-principles level. Except one-dimensional or quasi-one-dimensional systems, the O(N) frequency-domain methods are often not applicable to resonant responses because of the convergence problem. For linear response, the most efficient O(N) first-principles method is found to be the LDM method with Chebyshev expansion for time integration. For off-resonant response (including nonlinear properties) at a specific frequency, the frequency-domain methods with iterative solvers are quite efficient and thus practical. For nonlinear response, both on-resonance and off-resonance, the time-domain methods can be used, however, as the time-domain first-principles methods are quite expensive, time-domain O(N) semi-empirical methods are often the practical choice. Compared to the O(N) frequency-domain methods, the O(N) time-domain methods for excited states are much more mature and numerically stable, and have been applied widely to investigate the dynamics of complex molecular systems.
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