Chirality detection of enantiomers using twisted optical metamaterials

Yang Zhao, Amir N. Askarpour, Liuyang Sun, Jinwei Shi, Xiaoqin Li, Andrea Alù

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many naturally occurring biomolecules, such as amino acids, sugars and nucleotides, are inherently chiral. Enantiomers, a pair of chiral isomers with opposite handedness, often exhibit similar physical and chemical properties due to their identical functional groups and composition, yet show different toxicity to cells. Detecting enantiomers in small quantities has an essential role in drug development to eliminate their unwanted side effects. Here we exploit strong chiral interactions with plasmonic metamaterials with specifically designed optical response to sense chiral molecules down to zeptomole levels, several orders of magnitude smaller than what is typically detectable with conventional circular dichroism spectroscopy. In particular, the measured spectra reveal opposite signs in the spectral regime directly associated with different chiral responses, providing a way to univocally assess molecular chirality. Our work introduces an ultrathin, planarized nanophotonic interface to sense chiral molecules with inherently weak circular dichroism at visible and near-infrared frequencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14180
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Jan 25 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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