Exploring the mystery of the molecular handedness in nature, scientists have proposed a new experimental scheme to create custom-made mirror molecules for analysis.

The technique can make ordinary molecules spin so fast that they lose their normal symmetry and shape and instead form mirrored versions of each other.

The research team from DESY, Universität Hamburg and University College London around group leader Jochen Küpper describes the innovative method in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The further exploration of handedness, or chirality (from the ancient Greek word for hand, "cheir"), does not only enhance insight in the workings of nature, but could also pave the way for new materials and methods.

"For unknown reasons, life as we know it on Earth almost exclusively prefers left-handed proteins, while the genome is organised as the famous right-handed double helix," explains Andrey Yachmenev, who lead this theoretical work in Küpper's group at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL).

"For more than a century, researchers are unravelling the secrets of this handedness in nature, which does not only affect the living world: mirror versions of certain molecules alter chemical reactions and change the behaviour of materials."

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