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Electron crystallography for determining the handedness of a chiral zeolite nanocrystal

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Chiral crystals can be exploited for applications in enantioselective separation and catalysis. However, the study of chirality at the atomic level in a sub-micrometre-sized crystal is difficult due to the lack of adequate characterization methods. Herein, we present two efficient and practical methods of characterization that are based on electron crystallography. These methods are successfully applied to reveal the handedness of a chiral, zeolite nanocrystal. The handedness is identified through either a comparison of two high-resolution transmission electron microscope images, taken from the same nanocrystal but along different zone axes by tilting it around its screw axis, or the intensity asymmetry of a Bijvoet pair of reflections in a single precession electron-diffraction pattern. These two approaches provide new ways to determine the handedness of small, chiral crystals.

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Figure 1: Schematic representation of a six-fold rotation of helices with different handedness.
Figure 2: Determination of the handedness for the HPM-1 from a set of HRTEM images.
Figure 3: Comparison of two HRTEM images with gold nanoparticles as markers.
Figure 4: Handedness determination of the chiral zeolite using a PED pattern.

Change history

  • 02 June 2017

    In the Fig. 2 caption, the following text has been added: "We chose the c axis upwards for convenience." In the first paragraph of 'Determination of handedness by HRTEM imaging', the following text has been added: "For either left or right handedness, the shift direction depends only on the crystal rotation. When a right-handed crystal is rotated anticlockwise with the rotation axis up, the image shift from f1 to f2 is always downwards, irrespective of the c-axis direction. The choice does not affect the determination of the handedness."


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The authors acknowledge M. A. Camblor (ICMM, Madrid, Spain) and M. E. Davis (CALTECH, USA) for providing them with the zeolite samples. The authors also thank K. Tsuda (Tohoku University, Japan) for CBED experiments and discussions, W. Wan (Stockholm University, Sweden) for help with the through-focus series of HRTEM images, I. Onishi for help on TEM experiments, S. Asahina for help on SEM experiments and T. Ohsuna (Nagoya University, Japan) for discussions. Support from VR (Y.M. & P.O.), JEOL Ltd (P.O.), Berzelii Centre EXSELENT on Porous Materials and 3DEM-Natur, Sweden, BK21 Plus, Korea (O.T.) and the Shanghaitech Startup Funding (Y.M.) is acknowledged.

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O.T. and P.O. designed and guided the project. Y.M. and P.O. performed PED experiments and Y.M. performed HRTEM experiments. Y.M., O.T. and P. O. contributed to the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Peter Oleynikov or Osamu Terasaki.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Ma, Y., Oleynikov, P. & Terasaki, O. Electron crystallography for determining the handedness of a chiral zeolite nanocrystal. Nature Mater 16, 755–759 (2017).

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