Vibrational lifetimes of the asymmetric stretch fundamental of azide anion in normal and heavy water have been measured experimentally, with results in the range of a few picoseconds. This is an interesting problem for theoretical study because of the competition between intramolecular (relaxation to the other excited vibrational states of azide) and purely intermolecular (relaxation to azide's ground vibrational state) pathways. In addition it is important to understand the origin of the solvent isotope effect. Building on the seminal work of Morita and Kato [J. Chem. Phys. 109, 5511 (1998)], the authors develop a simple model based on a two-dimensional description of the azide stretching vibrations. A novel aspect of their theory is the use of an "on-the-fly" optimized quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical approach to calculate the system-bath coupling. Their theoretical lifetimes are in good agreement with experiment for azide in both normal and heavy water. They find that the predominant relaxation pathway is intramolecular. The solvent isotope effect arises from the different librational frequencies in normal and heavy water.
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