Chiral Molecules

Chiral molecules exist in two non-identical mirror image forms, relating to each other as your left hand to your right hand. Therefore the two mirror images are referred to as being left handed and right handed versions of the molecule. The animation shows how a molecule forming a left handed helix is obtained as the mirror image of a molecule forming a right handed helix. Using intense laser pulses, it is possible to explode the molecules and from the trajectories of the explosion fragments determine the handedness of the molecule. In addition, laser pulses can be used to twist the molecule shown in the animation in the direction that converts a left handed molecule into a right handed one. In the experiments sketched it is advantageous to study all molecules from the optimal direction. Thus, the experiments were performed using laser-induced alignment of the molecules.