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Electron asymmetries in the photoionization of chiral molecules : possible astrophysical implications

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Authors : Rim Hadidi, Dusan K. Bozanic, Gustavo A. Garcia & Laurent Nahon

Abstract : Photoelectron circular dichroism (PECD) is an intense orbital-specific chiroptical effect observed as asymmetries in the angular distribution of photoelectrons produced by photoionization of randomly oriented pure enantiomers with circularly polarized light. After a broad introduction placing this effect in the context of new physical chiral-sensitive methods, we review the main characteristics of PECD in terms of molecular photoionization dynamics. We stress also the analytical capabilities of PECD to retrieve enantiomeric excesses (e.es.) and to probe subtle details of the whole molecular potential, some of them exemplified by the showcase camphor and fenchone molecules. We then present the case of the amino acid alanine for which an interplay between PECD and conformer population is rationalized. Based on this study, we propose a photophysical astrophysical scenario for the origin of life’s homochirality, relying upon the asymmetry of the associated recoiling alanine parent ion that could lead at the relevant Lyman-α energy to an e.e. of up to 4% in a given line of sight, which appears independent of the temperature. In an attempt to generalize this scenario to other amino acids, new data on proline showing an e.e. of 12%, of the same sign as alanine, are also presented.
Journal : Advances in Physics : X Phys.X