How Deformation Can Lend a Hand to Molecular Ordering

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Science  24 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5939, pp. 402-403
DOI: 10.1126/science.1177315

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The spontaneous separation of mirror-imagemolecules—enantiomers—into distinct crystals, first seen by Louis Pasteur (1), played a key role in the development of the basic principles of stereochemistry and is widely used to separate chiral compounds (2). Such “spontaneous resolution” has since been observed in many different molecular systems, such as monolayers and clusters (3), but it seemed highly unlikely to occur in an isotropic fluid phase, given the random motions that take place in the liquid state. Yet Hough et al. report on page 452 of this issue (4) that achiral molecules with a “boomerang” shape spontaneously resolve into right- and left-handed domains in an isotropic liquid. In related work on page 456, Hough et al. (5) show that members of this class of molecules can assemble into helical nanofilaments that lead to a new type of supramolecular ordering.