Enantiomers, or stereoisomers, have crystal structures that are mirror images of each other and are thus handed, like our right and left hands. The physical properties of enantiomers are identical except for optical activity, which rotates linearly polarized light by equal amounts but in opposite directions. While conventional x-ray Bragg diffraction can determine crystal structures, it does not distinguish between right- and left-handed crystals. We show resonant Bragg diffraction using circularly polarized x rays reveals the handedness of crystals by coupling x-ray helicity to a crystal screw axis. The intensity of resonantly allowed reflection of α-quartz is well described by an admixture of a parity-even and a parity-odd process. Our results are of general importance and demonstrate a new method to directly study chiral motifs in structures that include biomaterials, liquid crystals, magnets, multiferroics, etc.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy(all)