Chirality plays a fundamental part in the activity of biological molecules and broad classes of chemical reactions, but detecting and quantifying it remains challenging1. The spectroscopic methods of choice are usually circular dichroism and vibrational circular dichroism, methods that are forbidden in the electric dipole approximation2. The resultant weak effects produce weak signals, and thus require high sample densities. In contrast, nonlinear techniques probing electric-dipole-allowed effects have been used for sensitive chiral analyses of liquid samples3,4,5,6,7. Here we extend this class of approaches by carrying out nonlinear resonant phase-sensitive microwave spectroscopy of gas phase samples in the presence of an adiabatically switched non-resonant orthogonal electric field; we use this technique to map the enantiomer-dependent sign of an electric dipole Rabi frequency onto the phase of emitted microwave radiation. We outline theoretically how this results in a sensitive and species-selective method for determining the chirality of cold gas-phase molecules, and implement it experimentally to distinguish between the S and R enantiomers of 1,2-propanediol and their racemic mixture. This technique produces a large and definitive signature of chirality, and has the potential to determine the chirality of multiple species in a mixture.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Busch K. W., Busch M. A., eds. Chiral Analysis (Elsevier, 2006)
Fischer, P. & Hache, F. Nonlinear optical spectroscopy of chiral molecules. Chirality 17, 421–437 (2005)
Fischer, P., Wiersma, D. S., Righini, R., Champagne, B. & Buckingham, A. D. Three-wave mixing in chiral liquids. Phys. Rev. Lett. 85, 4253–4256 (2000)
Li, Y. & Bruder, C. Dynamic method to distinguish between left- and right-handed chiral molecules. Phys. Rev. A 77, 015403 (2008)
Rhee, H., Choi, J.-H. & Cho, M. Infrared optical activity: electric field approaches in time domain. Acc. Chem. Res. 43, 1527–1536 (2010)
Hiramatsu, K. et al. Observation of Raman optical activity by heterodyne-detected polarization-resolved coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering. Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 083901 (2012)
Hirota, E. Triple resonance for a three-level system of a chiral molecule. Proc. Jpn Acad. B 88, 120–128 (2012)
Townes, C. & Schawlow, A. Microwave Spectroscopy (Dover Publications, 1975)
Darquié, B. et al. Progress toward the first observation of parity violation in chiral molecules by high-resolution laser spectroscopy. Chirality 22, 870–884 (2010)
Quack, M. How important is parity violation for molecular and biomolecular chirality? Angew. Chem. Int. Edn 41, 4618–4630 (2002)
Schnell, M. & Küpper, J. Tailored molecular samples for precision spectroscopy experiments. Faraday Discuss. 150, 33–49 (2011)
Quack, M., Stohner, J. & Willeke, M. High-resolution spectroscopic studies and theory of parity violation in chiral molecules. Annu. Rev. Phys. Chem. 59, 741–769 (2008)
Jacob, A. & Hornberger, K. Effect of molecular rotation on enantioseparation. J. Chem. Phys. 137, 044313 (2012)
Lovas, F. J. et al. Microwave spectrum of 1,2-propanediol. J. Mol. Spectrosc. 257, 82–93 (2009)
Patterson, D. & Doyle, J. M. Cooling molecules in a cell for FTMW spectroscopy. Mol. Phys. 110, 1757–1766 (2012)
Balle, T. J. & Flygare, W. H. Fabry-Perot cavity pulsed Fourier transform microwave spectrometer with a pulsed nozzle particle source. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 52, 33–45 (1981)
Guo, C. et al. Determination of enantiomeric excess in samples of chiral molecules using Fourier transform vibrational circular dichroism spectroscopy: simulation of real-time reaction monitoring. Anal. Chem. 76, 6956–6966 (2004)
Brown, G. G. et al. A broadband Fourier transform microwave spectrometer based on chirped pulse excitation. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 79, 053103 (2008)
Král, P., Thanopulos, I., Shapiro, M. & Cohen, D. Two-step enantio-selective optical switch. Phys. Rev. Lett. 90, 033001 (2003)
Thanopulos, I., Král, P. & Shapiro, M. Theory of a two-step enantiomeric purification of racemic mixtures by optical means: the D2S2 molecule. J. Chem. Phys. 119, 5105–5116 (2003)
Gerbasi, D., Brumer, P., Thanopulos, I., Král, P. & Shapiro, M. Theory of the two step enantiomeric purification of 1,3 dimethylallene. J. Chem. Phys. 120, 11557–11563 (2004)
Pate, B. H. & De Lucia, F. C. (eds) Special issue: Broadband molecular rotational spectroscopy. J. Mol. Spectrosc. 280, 1–2 (2012)
Mata, S., Peña, I., Cabezas, C., López, J. & Alonso, J. A broadband Fourier transform microwave spectrometer with laser ablation source: the rotational spectrum of nicotinic acid. J. Mol. Spectrosc. 280, 91–96 (2012)
Grabow, J.-U. et al. Rapid probe of the nicotine spectra by high-resolution rotational spectroscopy. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 13, 21063–21069 (2011)
Western, C. M. PGOPHER, a Program for Simulating Rotational Structure Version 7.1 (Univ. Bristol, 2010)
We thank D. DeMille, A. Vutha and C. Connolly for discussions, and D. DeMille and C. Connolly for contributions to the final manuscript.
D.P. and J.M.D. declare a financial interest: patents related to this research have been filed by Harvard University. The university’s policy is to share financial rewards from the exploitation of patents with the inventors. M.S. declares no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Patterson, D., Schnell, M. & Doyle, J. Enantiomer-specific detection of chiral molecules via microwave spectroscopy. Nature 497, 475–477 (2013) doi:10.1038/nature12150
Measurement Science and Technology (2020)
Determination of enantiomeric excess with chirality-dependent ac Stark effects in cyclic three-level models
Physical Review A (2019)
High-resolution spectroscopy near the continuum limit: the microwave spectrum of trans-3-bromo-1,1,1,2,2-pentafluoropropane
Molecular Physics (2019)
Physical Review Letters (2019)
The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters (2019)