Published: July 24, 2009
Main image from Hough et al. 2009 Science Chiral Isotropic Liquids from Achiral Molecules

L. E. Hough, M. Spannuth, M. Nakata, D. A. Coleman, C. D. Jones, G. Dantlgraber, C. Tschierske, J. Watanabe, E. Körblova, D. M. Walba, J. E. Maclennan, M. A. GlaserN. A. Clark. Science  24 Jul 2009: Vol. 325, Issue 5939, pp. 452-456 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1170028

A variety of simple bent-core molecules exhibit smectic liquid crystal phases of planar fluid layers that are spontaneously both polar and chiral in the absence of crystalline order. We found that because of intralayer structural mismatch, such layers are also only marginally stable against spontaneous saddle splay deformation, which is incompatible with long-range order. This results in macroscopically isotropic fluids that possess only short-range orientational and positional order, in which the only macroscopically broken symmetry is chirality—even though the phases are formed from achiral molecules. Their conglomerate domains exhibit optical rotatory powers comparable to the highest ever found for isotropic fluids of chiral molecules.