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Spontaneous Resolution by Stirred Crystallization


  • This work was supported by the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society and by the Office of Naval Research. We thank Professors Lia Addadi and Dilip Kondepudi for valuable conversations.


New insights into the mechanism of crystal nucleation emerge from a study by Kondepudi et al., on the crystallization of NaClO3 from a stirred solution. Rectangular prisms of the chiral space group P213 precipitate from aqueous solutions of the achiral ions. If the solution is not stirred, crystals of both enantiomorphic forms precipitate in equal amounts—exactly as was reported almost one hundred years ago. However, when the NaClO3 solution is stirred, then almost exclusively only right-handed or only left-handed crystals are formed. There is a simple explanation for this extremely surprising and obviously reproducible phenomenon.

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