Science Forum - Peter Rakitzis
Measurement of Chirality Using Optical Cavities
Chirality, the breaking of spatial-inversion symmetry, is shown by the three-dimensional structure of most biomolecules (e.g. DNA, amino acids, and sugars), and by only one of the four fundamental forces (the weak nuclear force). The origins of this symmetry breaking is not well understood in either case. These forms of chirality can be measured optically, through the rotation of the plane of linearly-polarized light passing through a chiral sample, as shown by Arago, Biot, and Pasteur, about 200 years ago. However, this method of chiral detection has remained essentially unchanged since then, despite lacking in sensitivity and being important to numerous fields, including pharmacology, proteomics, analytical chemistry, and atomic physics, and being widely used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food industries for quality control.
Professor Rakitzis describes how the sensitivity of optical rotation can be improved by orders of magnitude, using novel cavity-based methods, and discuss the impact to several fields, including the possibility of the measurement of the chirality of single molecules, using whispering-gallery-mode microresonators.