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A team of researchers from several institutions in China has developed a way to determine the absolute stereochemistry (3-D spatial configuration) of small, organic molecules. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their new technique and how well it worked. Hongyi Xu and Xiaodong Zou with Stockholm University, have published a Perspective piece on the work done by the team in the same journal issue.
As the researchers note, the current method for determining the absolute configuration of molecules that have chiral centers is done via X-ray crystallography. The measurement is based on observing how X-rays fired at molecules bounce around. Unfortunately, this method only works on relatively large crystal structures. Efforts to use a similar technique on smaller crystals based on electron diffraction have fallen short of expectations due to the fragile nature of the target—nanocrystals are destroyed by the energy in the electron beams. In this new effort, the researchers have found a way to overcome this problem, which allowed them to determine the stereochemistry of very small crystals for the first time. This is a pretty big...
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