The weak nuclear force, the chirality of atoms, and the origin of optically active molecules

Foundations of Chemistry 11 (2):105-122 (2009)
Although chemical phenomena are primarily associated with electrons in atoms, ions, and molecules, the masses, charges, spins, and other properties of the nuclei in these species contribute significantly as well. Isotopes, for instance, have proven invaluable in chemistry, in particular the elucidation of reaction mechanisms. Elements with unstable nuclei, for example carbon-14 undergoing beta decay, have enriched chemistry and many other scientific disciplines. The nuclei of all elements have a much more subtle and largely unknown effect on chemical phenomena. All nuclei are innately chiral and, because electrons can penetrate nuclei, all atoms and molecules are likewise chiral. This article describes in considerable detail the discovery of chiral nuclei, how this unusual chirality may influence the chemical behavior of atoms and molecules, and how atomic chirality may have been responsible for the synthesis of optically active molecules in the pre-biotic world.
Keywords Chiral nuclei  β Decay  Inverse β decay  Elementary particles  Four forces  Standard model  Electron and positron chirality  Theoretical calculations  Pre-biotic chemistry  Origin of life
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DOI 10.1007/s10698-009-9070-0
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