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Field-dependent molecular ionization and excitation energies: Implications for electrically insulating liquids
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The molecular ionization potential has a relatively strong electric-field dependence as compared to the excitation energies which has implications for electrical insulation since the excited states work as an energy sink emitting light in the UV/VIS region. At some threshold field, all the excited states of the molecule have vanished and the molecule is a two-state system with the ground state and the ionized state, which has been hypothesized as a possible origin of different streamer propagation modes. Constrained density-functional theory is used to calculate the field-dependent ionization potential of different types of molecules relevant for electrically insulating liquids. The low singlet-singlet excitation energies of each molecule have also been calculated using time-dependent density functional theory. It is shown that low-energy singlet-singlet excitation of the type n → π* (lone pair to unoccupied π* orbital) has the ability to survive at higher fields. This type of excitation can for example be found in esters, diketones and many color dyes. For alkanes (as for example n-tridecane and cyclohexane) on the other hand, all the excited states, in particular the σ → σ* excitations vanish in electric fields higher than 10 MV/cm. Further implications for the design of electrically insulating dielectric liquids based on the molecular ionization potential and excitation energies are discussed.
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