Daniel Porter
Jul 11, 2012

Rightie or leftie? Berkeley researchers change chirality

Handed, more often referred to as "chirality," is an important characteristic in the micro- and nano-scopic world. Many molecules we encounter in our everyday lives can come in two symmetric varieties -- mirror images of otherwise identical molecules. Reporting in today's PNAS, a Lawrence-Berkeley-led team has made small chiral molecules that can change orientation when struck by terahertz-frequency light. The breakthrough in molecule design could have implications in a wide range of fields from toxicology to wireless communication and beyond. “Natural materials can be induced to change their chirality but the process, which involves structural changes to the material, is weak and slow. With our artificial molecules, we’ve demonstrated strong dynamic chirality switching at light-speed,” says Xiang Zhang, one of the leaders of authors this research.