Research Fellows Directory
Dr Ventsislav Valev
University of Bath
The material world is split into left and right and, sometimes, into right and tragically wrong. This splitting is due to "chirality", the property whereby two objects can be mirror-images of each other, without being superimposable on each other - just like human hands. The word "chirality" derives from an ancient Greek word meaning "hand". By extension, chiral objects are called left-handed or right-handed, regardless of whether they are gloves, shoes or molecules. Actually, chirality is one of the most fundamental mysteries of life, as a great number of life-related molecules (DNA, amino acids) are chiral and they all have the same handedness in humans, animals, plants and microorganisms. In artificially synthesised drugs or pesticides, the opposite handed molecules constitute chiral pollutants; they can affect organisms by acting as an inhibitor of biological pathways with unpredictable and potentially disastrous effects.
This research programme seeks to explore the fundamental relationship between chirality and light, through the magnifying lens of plasmonics. Surface-enhanced electric and magnetic fields will be used to achieve unprecedented levels of sensitivity for nonlinear chiroptical techniques with circularly polarized light. The program aims at visualizing single molecule chirality and at limiting the release of undesired chiral toxins into the environment.
The experimental methods to be used are based on nonlinear optical techniques, specifically second harmonic generation (SHG). SHG is a surface/interfaces-sensitive technique that could also be of beneficial for studies in the fields of plasmonics, magnetism, semiconductor interfaces, chemical surface ordering and biology.