Mixing of quantum states: A new route to creating optical activity

Anvar S. Baimuratov, Nikita V. Tepliakov, Yurii K. Gun'Ko, Alexander V. Baranov, Anatoly V. Fedorov, Ivan D. Rukhlenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to induce optical activity in nanoparticles and dynamically control its strength is of great practical importance due to potential applications in various areas, including biochemistry, toxicology, and pharmaceutical science. Here we propose a new method of creating optical activity in originally achiral quantum nanostructures based on the mixing of their energy states of different parities. The mixing can be achieved by selective excitation of specific states or via perturbing all the states in a controllable fashion. We analyze the general features of the so produced optical activity and elucidate the conditions required to realize the total dissymmetry of optical response. The proposed approach is applicable to a broad variety of real systems that can be used to advance chiroptical devices and methods. Chirality is known to occur at many levels of life organization and plays a key role in many chemical and biological processes in nature1. The fact that most of organic molecules are chiral starts more and more affecting the progress of contemporary medicine and pharmaceutical industry2. As a consequence, a great deal of research efforts has been recently focused on the optical activity of inherently chiral organic molecules3, 4. It can be strong in the ultraviolet range, in which case it is difficult to study and use in practice. Shifting the chiroptical response of such molecules into the visible domain is quite challenging and can be achieved, for example, by coupling chiral molecules or biomolecules to plasmonic nanoparticles5-9. With the advent of the nanotechnology era it has become possible to create and engineer optical activity in various kinds of inorganic nanostructures10. There are several approaches to making a nanostructure optically active. One way of doing this is to order achiral nanoparticles or nanocrystals into chiral structures, such as helixes or tetrahedra9, 11, 12. Another way is the coupling of an achiral nanoparticle to chiral molecules that can transfer their enantiomeric structure to the nanoparticle surface13-15. Besides this, one can fabricate nanoparticles of chiral shapes16, 17 or with screw dislocations of the crystal lattice18-22. It should be noted that the induction of optical activity in all these cases requires nanostructures not only to lack the mirror symmetry, but also to preserve the helicity of light23, 24. Most importantly is that the ability to control the size, geometry, and composition of chiral nanostructures enables the tunability of their optical response over a broad range of electromagnetic spectrum, including ultraviolet, visible, and infrared ranges. Studying the optical activity of nanostructures is thus of applied significance and has a potential to produce new materials and devices with controllable optical properties. Despite the variety of ways to achieve optical activity in inorganic nanostructures, they all are underlaid by the same physical principle, which is the breaking of mirror symmetry of the nanostructure's electronic subsystem. This raises a number of fundamental questions, such as (i) what are the general conditions to be satisfied for a nanostructure to exhibit optical activity, (ii) how can this activity be maximized for a given set of material or geometric parameters, and (iii) whether or not the total dissymmetry of optical response of nanostructures is feasible. With this paper we offer an approach to address these questions using general considerations and without specifying the exact physical origin of the nanostructure's chirality. This approach leads us to a number of valuable results and a simple theoretical formalism that can prove useful in predicting and interpreting experimental data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages6
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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