The fast and accurate analysis of chiral chemical mixtures is crucial for many applications but remains challenging. Here we use elliptically-polarized femtosecond laser pulses at high repetition rates to photoionize chiral molecules. The 3D photoelectron angular distribution produced provides molecular fingerprints, showing a strong forward-backward asymmetry which depends sensitively on the molecular structure and degree of ellipticity. Continuously scanning the laser ellipticity and analyzing the evolution of the rich, multi-dimensional molecular signatures allows us to observe real-time changes in the chemical and chiral content present with unprecedented speed and accuracy. We measure the enantiomeric excess of a compound with an accuracy of 0.4% in 10 min acquisition time, and follow the evolution of a mixture with an accuracy of 5% with a temporal resolution of 3 s. This method is even able to distinguish isomers, which cannot be easily distinguished by mass-spectrometry.
Real-time determination of enantiomeric and isomeric content using photoelectron elliptical dichroism
A. Comby, E. Bloch, C. M. M. Bond, D. Descamps, J. Miles, S. Petit, S. Rozen, J. B. Greenwood, V. Blanchet & Y. Mairesse, Nature Communications 9, 5212 (2018)