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circular birefringence


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A phenomenon in which there is a difference between the refractive indices of the molecules of a substance for right- and left-circularly polarized light. Circular birefringence depends on the way in which the electromagnetic field interacts with the molecule, and is affected by the handedness of the molecule, and hence its polarizability. If a molecule has the shape of a helix, the polarizability is dependent on whether or not the electric field of the electromagnetic field rotates in the same sense as the helix, thus giving rise to circular birefringence.

Subjects: Chemistry — Physics.


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