Physical chemistry: Electrons with a twist

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    Phys. Rev. Lett. 101, 178301 (2008)

    Credit: ARGONNE NATL LABORATORY

    The direction of an electron's spin is sufficient to determine the decomposition rate of the two mirror-image forms of a molecule.

    Richard Rosenberg of Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and his colleagues drew this conclusion after firing X-rays at a magnetic iron–nickel alloy coated with thin layers of 2-butanol. This freed electrons from the alloy, and their spins aligned with its magnetic field.

    With the alloy magnetized in one direction, the electrons tended to increase the rate that right-handed 2-butanol fell apart in response to light by about 10%; the opposite field caused a similar effect in left-handed molecules. The two forms of the molecule are shown above.

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    Physical chemistry: Electrons with a twist. Nature 456, 425 (2008) doi:10.1038/456425c

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