Madison, Vincent. Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois.
Last reviewed:January 2020
- Methods of measurement
- Correlation with molecular structure
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The effect of asymmetric compounds on polarized light. To exhibit this effect, a molecule must be nonsuperimposable on its mirror image, that is, must be related to its mirror image as the right hand is to the left hand. An optically active compound and its mirror image are called enantiomers or optical isomers. Enantiomers differ only in their geometric arrangements; they have identical chemical and physical properties. The right-handed and left-handed forms of a molecule can be distinguished only by their optical activity or by their interactions with other asymmetric molecules. Optical activity can be used to probe other aspects of molecular geometry, as well as to identify which enantiomer is present and its purity.
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