Investigating the character of excited states in TiO2 nanoparticles from topological descriptors: implications for photocatalysis†
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoclusters (NCs) and nanoparticles (NPs) have been the focus of intense research in recent years since they play a prominent role in photocatalysis. In particular, the properties of their excited states determine the photocatalytic activity. Among the requirements for photocatalytic activity, low excitation energy and large separation of the charge carriers are crucial. While information regarding the first is straightforward from either experiment or theory, the information regarding the second is scarce or missing. In the present work we fill this gap through a topological analysis of the first singlet excited state of a series of TiO2 NCs, and anatase and rutile derived NPs containing up to 495 atoms. The excited states of all these systems in vacuo have been obtained from time-dependent density functional theory (TDDFT) calculations using hybrid functionals and the influence of water was taken into account through a continuum model. Three different topological descriptors based on the attachment/detachment one-electron charge density, are scrutinized: (i) charge transfer degree, (ii) charge density overlap, and (iii) distance between centroids of charge. The present analysis shows that the charge separation in the excited state strongly depends on the NP size and shape. The character of the electronic excitations, as arising from the analysis of the canonical Kohn–Sham molecular orbitals (MOs) or from natural transition orbitals (NTOs), is also investigated. The understanding and prediction of charge transfer and recombination in TiO2 nanostructures may have implications in the rational design of these systems to boost their photocatalytic potential.