Optical chirality and its interaction with matter

Phys Rev Lett. 2010 Apr 23;104(16):163901. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.163901. Epub 2010 Apr 19.


We introduce a measure of the local density of chirality of the electromagnetic field. This optical chirality determines the asymmetry in the rates of excitation between a small chiral molecule and its mirror image, and applies to molecules in electromagnetic fields with arbitrary spatial dependence. A continuity equation for optical chirality in the presence of material currents describes the flow of chirality, in a manner analogous to the Poynting theorem for electromagnetic energy. "Superchiral" solutions to Maxwell's equations show larger chiral asymmetry, in some regions of space, than is found in circularly polarized plane waves.