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Chiral metal surfaces may help to manufacture pharmaceuticals
Date:10/26/2011

le-crystal surfaces. Thanks to a powerful scanning tunnelling microscope, capable of resolving individual atoms and molecules, their work is revealing the various manifestations of chirality that occur, giving important clues to how they arise, and how they might be controlled and exploited.

Dr Stephen Driver, of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, who led the experimental work, said: "We set out to investigate two distinct scenarios. In one scenario, the surface is non-chiral, so any chirality that we see can only arise from the chirality of the alanine molecule. In the other scenario, we move to a surface that is intrinsically chiral. Now the question becomes: do the two enantiomers of alanine behave differently on this chiral surface?"

On the non-chiral surface, the researchers found that alanine can self-organise into either of two patterns. In one of these, the self-organisation is driven by hydrogen bonding between the molecules, while the chiral centre has no discernable impact on the regular array. In the other structure, a network of long-range chiral boundaries punctuates the array, and the boundary chirality switches with molecular chirality.

Driver explained: "The implication is that the chiral centre is having a direct influence on the packing of two alanine neighbours at the boundary, and that the chirality of this pair propagates to the next pair and the next and so on, so that the chiral boundary is built up over a long range."

The chiral surface is created simply by choosing a surface orientation that lies away from any of the bulk mirror symmetry planes of the metal crystal. When the researchers added alanine, they found that the surface changes its local orientation, forming nanometre-scale facets. The two enantiomers of alanine self-organise into different chiral patterns: a strong, enantiomer-specific structural effect. This "proof of principle" could potentially be exploited in chiral
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Contact: Genevieve Maul
Genevieve.maul@admin.cam.ac.uk
44-012-237-65542
University of Cambridge
Source:Eurekalert

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