A molecule is chiral if its mirror image cannot be superimposed onto itself. Chirality serves an essential function in life. Our research program centres on understanding mechanisms of chirality recognition/transfer/amplification at the molecular level. To achieve this goal, we apply and develop new spectroscopic tools to characterize structural and dynamical properties of chiral molecules and non-covalent interactions among them in the gas phase, solution, cold rare gas matrices and at liquid-liquid interfaces.
We emphasize the connection between the gas phase and condense phase results obtained using high resolution spectroscopy and several chiroptical spectroscopies, respectively. For example, we examined the conformational landscape and chirality recognition in the binary adducts of tetrahydro-2-furoic acid using chirped pulse Fourier transform microwave spectroscopy. The unusual conformational distributions and chirality controlled conformational preferences will be discussed. Using vibrational circular dichroism, we followed the first few steps of self-aggregation of the acid in cold rare gas matrices and compared the results to those obtained in neat liquid and in the gas phase. In the second example, I will discuss chirality transfer from a chiral nickel complex to solvent molecules detected as Raman optical activity. We propose a chirality transfer/amplification mechanism based on quantum plasmons. Further related experiments involving small gold clusters will also be discussed. The interplay between experiment and theory is essential for all the work described.