Enantiomeric success

There were two news stories this week about chirality, the first showed how microwave spectroscopy might be used to discriminate between enantiomers. The second showed how symmetry might be broken in a deliberate way. Susanne Olsson of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has developed a novel crystallization technique that can allow left and right enantiomers to be separated using reverse solubility without the need for an asymmetric auxiliary or a chiral external influence. She points out that while the deceived wisdom is that spontaneous chiral separation is usually considered to be impossible, it is nevertheless possible to generate optical activity from achiral or racemic precursors if the compounds in question can form chiral crystals and are stereochemically labile in solution. She asserts that her technique shows that all crystals in a batch can crystallise as a single enantiomer via total spontaneous resolution. The work has implications for the pharmaceutical industry, organic synthesis in general and the origins of the chiral bias seen in biology.