gweneliz
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What is an optical isomer? And what do they have to do with light? Please explain this simply, I'm getting quite confused with the stuff the internet has to say...
Thanks in advance.
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Farseer
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if you pass normal light through a polarising filter you get plane polarised light

when you pass plane polarised light through a non-optical chemical sample, the light doesn't change angle - so 0 degrees

however, when you have an optical isomer sample, the angle of this plane polarised light does change - so x degrees - it rotates plane polarised light

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username913907
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(Original post by gweneliz)
What is an optical isomer? And what do they have to do with light? Please explain this simply, I'm getting quite confused with the stuff the internet has to say...
Thanks in advance.
Optical isomers, known as a pair of enantiomers, are non-superimposable mirror images of one another. They are known as optical isomers because they have this effect of rotating the axis of plane polarised light.
The notation of the isomerism is important if you're learning about them... look up the CIP assignment rules and the R/S notation for chirality.

They are significant as the 3D shape of a molecule is very important in Biology. The mirror image of a 'Chiral' molecule (A molecule that has optical isomers) cannot be overlayed (They are non-superimposable), much in the same way that your right and left hand cannot be overlayed. This is important biologically as enzymes can be considered like gloves in this analogy. Only one hand will fit into the glove as they have differing 3D shapes and so interact differently in the body.
A well known example is the drug thalidomide. One isomer is a perfectly good medicine for morning sickness, the other a potent teratogen which lead to horrific deformities in the children of mothers taking the drug.
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