We introduce Active Orbital Preservation for Multiconfigurational Self-Consistent Field (AOP-MCSCF), an automated approach to improving the consistency of active space orbitals over multiple molecular configurations. Our approach is based on maximum overlap with a reference set of active space orbitals taken from a single geometry of a chromophore in the gas phase and can be used to automatically preserve the appropriate orbitals of the chromophore across multiple thermally sampled configurations, even when the chromophore is solvated by quantum-mechanically treated water molecules. In particular, using the singular value decomposition of a Molecular Orbital (MO) overlap matrix between the system and reference, we rotate the MOs of the system to align with the reference active space orbitals and use the resulting rotated orbitals as an initial guess to a MCSCF calculation. We demonstrate the approach on aqueous p-hydroxybenzylidene-imidazolinone (HBI) and find that AOP-MCSCF converges to the “correct” orbitals for over 90% of 3000 thermally sampled configurations. In addition, we compute the linear absorption spectrum and find excellent agreement with new experimental measurements up to 5.4 eV (230 nm). We show that electrostatic contributions to the solvation energy of HBI largely explain the observed state-dependent solvatochromism.

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