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Attosecond-Scale Research Elucidates Dynamics of Spin-Dependent Quantum Tunneling Through Chiral Molecules

Experiments directly on tunneling ionization dynamics have discovered that electrons will behave differently when quantum tunneling from a molecule depending on the molecule's chirality (chirality refers to the “handedness” of non-superimposable stereoisomers of a molecule, the same way a left hand cannot be superimposed over a right hand, even though they are mirror images of each other). The projection of electron spin onto its momentum direction, called spin-orbit coupling, strongly affects the tunneling probability between chiral molecules of the biological system. This phenomenon of electron conduction being enhanced by an electron’s spin orientation is known as chiral-induced spin selectivity (CISS). Previous studies had shown that the helical geometry found in many biomolecules, like DNA and alpha helices of proteins, induces robust spin filtering accompanied by, and intimately related to, strongly enhanced transmission, and now new research investigating...

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