Chiral Induced Spin Selectivity Gives a New Twist on Spin-Control in Chemistry

Ron Naaman*, Yossi Paltiel*, David H. Waldeck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


ConspectusThe electron's spin, its intrinsic angular momentum, is a quantum property that plays a critical role in determining the electronic structure of molecules. Despite its importance, it is not used often for controlling chemical processes, photochemistry excluded. The reason is that many organic molecules have a total spin zero, namely, all the electrons are paired. Even for molecules with high spin multiplicity, the spin orientation is usually only weakly coupled to the molecular frame of nuclei and hence to the molecular orientation. Therefore, controlling the spin orientation usually does not provide a handle on controlling the geometry of the molecular species during a reaction. About two decades ago, however, a new phenomenon was discovered that relates the electron's spin to the handedness of chiral molecules and is now known as the chiral induced spin selectivity (CISS) effect. It was established that the efficiency of electron transport through chiral molecules depends on the electron spin and that it changes with the enantiomeric form of a molecule and the direction of the electron's linear momentum. This property means that, for chiral molecules, the electron spin is strongly coupled to the molecular frame. Over the past few years, we and others have shown that this feature can be used to provide spin-control over chemical reactions and to perform enantioseparations with magnetic surfaces.In this Account, we describe the CISS effect and demonstrate spin polarization effects on chemical reactions. Explicitly, we describe a number of processes that can be controlled by the electron's spin, among them the interaction of chiral molecules with ferromagnetic surfaces, the multielectron oxidation of water, and enantiospecific electrochemistry. Interestingly, it has been shown that the effect also takes place in inorganic chiral oxides like copper oxide, aluminum oxide, and cobalt oxide. The CISS effect results from the coupling between the electron linear momentum and its spin in a chiral system. Understanding the implications of this interaction promises to reveal a previously unappreciated role for chirality in biology, where chiral molecules are ubiquitous, and opens a new avenue into spin-controlled processes in chemistry.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2659-2667
Number of pages9
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - 17 Nov 2020

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