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Science. 2011 Apr 15;332(6027):333-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1202817.

Enhanced enantioselectivity in excitation of chiral molecules by superchiral light.

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Department of Physics, Harvard University, 12 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


A molecule or larger body is chiral if it cannot be superimposed on its mirror image (enantiomer). Electromagnetic fields may be chiral, too, with circularly polarized light (CPL) as the paradigmatic example. A recently introduced measure of the local degree of chiral dissymmetry in electromagnetic fields suggested the existence of optical modes more selective than circularly polarized plane waves in preferentially exciting single enantiomers in certain regions of space. By probing induced fluorescence intensity, we demonstrated experimentally an 11-fold enhancement over CPL in discrimination of the enantiomers of a biperylene derivative by precisely sculpted electromagnetic fields. This result, which agrees to within 15% with theoretical predictions, establishes that optical chirality is a fundamental and tunable property of light, with possible applications ranging from plasmonic sensors to absolute asymmetric synthesis.

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