• Modified Micelles: "In order to separate chiral molecules, you need another chiral species," says Isiah Warner, chairman of the chemistry department at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Warner uses fatty spheres called micelles, which form as fatty acid tails face inward and heads face outward in solution. He links a single enantiomer of the amino acid valine to the fatty acids, creating micelles that bind certain other single enantiomers.

    It is an old idea with a twist, Warner says: He uses gamma rays to fuse the tails. "Normally, if you go below a certain concentration, micelles break up. If you fuse the tails, they can't break," he explains. This is useful because separating some enantiomers occurs only at low concentrations.

  • Serendipitous Stirring: In 1990, Dilip Kondepudi, a professor of chemistry at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., was scrutinizing the effect of impurities on crystallization of sodium chlorate. A...

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