Infrared spectroscopy is a powerful technique to unravel the structure and dynamics of molecular systems of ever increasing complexity. For isolated molecules in the gas phase theoretical approaches that directly rely on solving the Schrödinger equation, either approximately or quasi-exactly, are well established. A distinctly different approach to compute infrared spectra can be based on advanced molecular dynamics, itself being based on classical Newtonian dynamics, in conjunction with concurrent first principles electronic structure calculations. At variance with traditional methods, which are formulated in terms of the Schrödinger representation of quantum mechanics, the molecular dynamics approach stems from Heisenberg's representation and thus relies on computing thermal expectation values of time-correlation functions. Crucial in addition to generating the spectra themselves is their decomposition in terms of modes, which can be assigned to correlated atomic motion. This ab initio molecular dynamics route to compute infrared spectra, and its recent extension to quasiclassical techniques relying on approximate path integral dynamics, is covered in the review part of this Perspective. The usefulness of this unconventional approach, which can be generalized beyond infrared spectroscopy, is demonstrated in detail by applying the full machinery in computing and assigning the infrared spectra of protonated methane and its isotopologues. This particular molecule is often considered to be the most prominent member of the class of floppy or fluxional molecules. CH5+ has been a longstanding challenge for theoretical infrared spectroscopy because it undergoes intricate large-amplitude motion, which is also reviewed. Molecular dynamics based infrared spectroscopy is general and can be applied to diverse systems such as molecular complexes in the gas phase, chromophores in biomolecular environments, and solute–solvent systems in the liquid phase.
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