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June 24, 2020 at 10:22 am

Govorov Proposes Chiral Nanocrystals for Novel Uses

Alexander Govorov

Alexander Govorov

By Katelyn Nichols
NQPI Editorial Intern
Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute 2020 Spring Newsletter

Physics & Astronomy Distinguished Professor of Physics and NQPI member Dr. Sasha Govorov and his group recently published a paper titled “Hot Electrons Generated in Chiral Plasmonic Nanocrystals as a Mechanism for Surface Photochemistry and Chiral Growth” in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The paper focuses on photo-physics and the physical chemistry of chiral light interacting with chiral nanocrystals.

A molecule is chiral when its mirror image, or enantiomer, is not superimposable upon the original molecule. The process of chiral separation has applications in many areas. In  medicine for example, it is important because a drug’s effectiveness relies upon a molecule’s chirality. It is known that a given enantiomer may not exhibit the same medical properties as the molecule’s original orientation.

The motivation for the study came from the idea of ‘chiral photochemistry’, a process where chemical compounds are electronically excited and molecular chirality is induced. Since biomolecules and drugs are mostly chiral at the molecule level molecular level, laser light can be used to separate molecules from their enantiomers. Still, this separation process has a rather low efficiency rate because light-matter interactions that involve chirality are usually weak at molecular scales. At the nanometer scale, however, all optical processes are greatly enhanced and the corresponding efficiencies can be much larger.

The paper by Govorov’s team proposed such path—the use of chiral nanocrystals for efficient separation using circularly polarized light. Due to this newly found versatility, the field of chiral nanocrystals has become extremely popular; many international research groups are developing new implementations for this technique.

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