Separation of enantiomers by their enantiospecific interaction with achiral magnetic substrates

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Science  22 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6395, pp. 1331-1334
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar4265

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Taking enantiomers for a spin

There are two common ways to distinguish mirror-image molecules, or enantiomers. The first relies on their distinct interactions with circularly polarized light, the second on their interactions with a pure enantiomer of some other molecule. Now Banerjee-Ghosh et al. report a conceptually different approach to chiral resolution. Experiments showed that, depending on the direction of magnetization, chiral oligopeptides, oligonucleotides, and amino acids have enantiospecific differences in initial adsorption rates on ferromagnetic surfaces. This effect is attributed to enantiospecific induced spin polarization.

Science, this issue p. 1331


It is commonly assumed that recognition and discrimination of chirality, both in nature and in artificial systems, depend solely on spatial effects. However, recent studies have suggested that charge redistribution in chiral molecules manifests an enantiospecific preference in electron spin orientation. We therefore reasoned that the induced spin polarization may affect enantiorecognition through exchange interactions. Here we show experimentally that the interaction of chiral molecules with a perpendicularly magnetized substrate is enantiospecific. Thus, one enantiomer adsorbs preferentially when the magnetic dipole is pointing up, whereas the other adsorbs faster for the opposite alignment of the magnetization. The interaction is not controlled by the magnetic field per se, but rather by the electron spin orientations, and opens prospects for a distinct approach to enantiomeric separations.

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