Chiral hide-and-seek: retention of enantiomorphism in laser-induced nucleation of molten sodium chlorate

Martin R. Ward, Gary W. Copeland, Andrew J. Alexander

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We report the observation of non-photochemical laser-induced nucleation (NPLIN) of sodium chlorate from its melt using nanosecond pulses of light at 1064 nm. The fraction of samples that nucleate is shown to depend linearly on the peak power density of the laser pulses. Remarkably, we observe that most samples are nucleated by the laser back into the enantiomorph (dextrorotatory or levorotatory) of the solid prior to melting. We do not observe a significant dependence on polarization of the light, and we put forward symmetry arguments that rule out an optical Kerr effect mechanism. Our observations of retention of chirality can be explained by decomposition of small amounts of the sodium chlorate to form sodium chloride, which provide cavities for retention of clusters of sodium chlorate even 18 °C above the melting point. These clusters remain sub-critical on cooling, but can be activated by NPLIN via an isotropic polarizability mechanism. We have developed a heterogeneous model of NPLIN in cavities, which reproduces the experimental data using simple physical data available for sodium chlorate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114508
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • nucleation
  • sodium
  • chiral symmetries
  • electric fields
  • homogeneous nucleation

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