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Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society. X-ray transient absorption spectroscopy (XTAS) is a promising technique for measuring electron dynamics in molecules and solids with attosecond time resolutions. In XTAS, the elemental specificity and spatial locality of core-to-valence X-ray absorption is exploited to relate modulations in the time-resolved absorption spectra to local electron density variations around particular atoms. However, interpreting these absorption modulations and frequency shifts as a function of the time delay in terms of dynamics can be challenging. In this paper, we present a first-principles study of attosecond XTAS in a selection of simple molecules based on real-time time-dependent density functional theory (RT-TDDFT) with constrained DFT to emulate the state of the system following the interaction with a ultraviolet pump laser. In general, there is a decrease in the optical density and a blue shift in the frequency with increasing electron density around the absorbing atom. In carbon monoxide (CO), modulations in the O K-edge occur at the frequency of the valence electron dynamics, while for dioxygen (O2) they occur at twice the frequency, due to the indistinguishability of the oxygen atoms. In 4-aminophenol (H2NC6H4OH), likewise, there is a decrease in the optical density and a blue shift in the frequency for the oxygen and nitrogen K-edges with increasing charge density on the O and N, respectively. Similar effects are observed in the nitrogen K-edge for a long-range charge-transfer excitation in a benzene (C6H6)-tetracyanoethylene (C6N4; TCNE) dimer but with weaker modulations due to the delocalization of the charge across the entire TCNE molecule. Additionally, in all cases, there are pre-edge features corresponding to core transitions to depopulated orbitals. These potentially offer a background-free signal that only appears in pumped molecules.

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Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation

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