Chirality Recognition between Neutral Molecules in the Gas Phase



Noncovalent interactions are particularly intriguing when they involve chiral molecules, because the interactions change in a subtle way upon replacing one of the partners by its mirror image. The resulting phenomena involving chirality recognition are relevant in the biosphere, in organic synthesis, and in polymer design. They may be classified according to the permanent or transient chirality of the interacting partners, leading to chirality discrimination, chirality induction, and chirality synchronization processes. For small molecules, high-level quantum chemical calculations for such processes are feasible. To provide reliable connections between theory and experiment, such phenomena are best studied in vacuum isolation at low temperature, using rotational, vibrational, electronic, and photoionization spectroscopy. We review these techniques and the results which have become available in recent years, with special emphasis on dimers of permanently chiral molecules and on the influence of conformational flexibility. Analogies between the microscopic mechanisms and macroscopic phenomena and between intra- and intermolecular cases are drawn.