Summary of the research program
"Extreme light for sensing and driving molecular chirality (ELCH)"
Handedness, a common everyday experience termed chirality in science, has fascinated scientists as well as philosophers for centuries. Molecular chirality is widely recognized for its relevance to the building blocks of life and its vital role for medicine and health. This CRC focuses on a completely different but equally fundamental aspect, namely on a microscopic quantum mechanical understanding of individual chiral molecules in the gas phase under perfectly defined experimental conditions. It employs the most advanced tools of experimental and theoretical gas phase atoms, molecular, and optical/quantum optical (AMO) physics for control and manipulation of chirality on the single-molecule level. With the help of extreme light, covering all relevant excitation regimes in terms of energy, intensity, and temporal resolution, it addresses the full chiral quantum system of electrons and nuclei in each individual molecule. This CRC will provide a purely light-driven gas phase laboratory for chiral molecular physics, which is unprecedented, despite the importance of chiral molecules for practical applications in chemistry and life science and their potential for fundamental physics research. In fundamental physics, chiral molecules can serve as versatile probes due to their inherent connection to tunneling - as discovered by Hund in the early days of quantum mechanics and their pronounced sensitivity to parity violating interactions.
The tremendous attention is paid to individual aspects of gas phase single-molecule chirality in the current scientific discussion attests to the timeliness of our CRC application. The PIs of our consortium are among the drivers of this development, with several ground-breaking contributions in recent years. This CRC brings together these renowned theorists and experimentalists with world-leading technologies, who join forces in order to understand, as the main scientific goal, single-molecule chirality and the electronic response of chiral molecules to electromagnetic radiation. This understanding will provide the basis for controlling chirality on the single-molecule level. Within our CRC, we will develop advanced and light-based methods for the analysis, separation, cooling, trapping, manipulation and control of chiral molecules. Our specific long-term goals are the efficient determination of absolute configuration on the single-molecule level in the gas phase, chiral purification, i.e. the complete light-driven conversion of a sample of molecules with mixed handedness into a sample with only one handedness, and to perform fundamental physics experiments with chiral molecules.
Besides our scientific aims, we will pursue three further key goals within the CRC. The strategic goal is to establish an internationally leading research center for light-driven chiral molecules in the gas phase. The core activities at Universität Kassel will be closely linked to the participating institutions Universität Frankfurt, Universität Marburg and DESY, invigorating existing collaborations and establishing new ones. The CRC can build on a 15-year focused hiring policy in AMO physics at Universität Kassel and on a four-year funded collaborative project on chiral molecules between the Hessian partners through the Excellence Initiative of the State of Hesse. The educational goal is to provide the best possible training for students and postdocs in this promising new area of AMO science and give the initial boost for their later career. Science education will be complemented by a dedicated outreach program, with measures that span from child care through high school to the general public. Our gender equality goal is to take advantage of the already high-level infrastructure at Universität Kassel and substantiate it by physics specific components that will encourage female scientists to advance to senior ranks of research.
The CRC 1319 ELCH is a follow-up of the very successful earlier research collaboration „Electron Dynamics of the Chiral Systems” with the same acronym ELCH but with a different focus. The previous ELCH project was funded within the Hesse excellence initiative LOEWE (Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-ökonomischer Exzellenz) between 2013 and 2016.