The electronic relaxation of gadolinium complexes used as MRI contrast agents was studied theoretically by following the short time evolution of zero-field-splitting parameters. The statistical analysis of ab initio molecular dynamics trajectories provided a clear separation between static and transient contributions to the zero-field-splitting. For the latter, the correlation time was estimated at approximately 0.1 ps. The influence of the ligand was also probed by replacing one pendant arm of our reference macrocyclic complex by a bulkier phosphonate arm. In contrast to the transient contribution, the static zero-field-splitting was significantly influenced by this substitution.

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