Racemic mixture

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In chemistry, a racemic mixture, or racemate (pronounced /reɪˈsimeɪt/), is one that has equal amounts of left- and right-handed enantiomers of a chiral molecule. The first known racemic mixture was "racemic acid", which Louis Pasteur found to be a mixture of the two enantiomeric isomers of tartaric acid.

Contents

Nomenclature

A racemic mixture is denoted by the prefix (±)- or dl- (for sugars the prefix dl- may be used), indicating an equal (1:1) mixture of dextro and levo isomers. Also the prefix rac- (or racem-) or the symbols RS and SR (all in italic letters) are used.

If the ratio is not 1:1 (or is not known), the prefix (+)/(−), d/l- or d/l- (with a slash) is used instead.

The usage of d and l is strongly discouraged by IUPAC. [1] [2]

Properties

A racemate is optically inactive, meaning that there is no net rotation of plane-polarized light. Although the two enantiomers rotate plane-polarized light in opposite directions, the rotations cancel because they are present in equal amounts.

In contrast to the two pure enantiomers, which have identical physical properties except for the direction of rotation of plane-polarized light, a racemate sometimes has different properties from either of the pure enantiomers. Different melting points are most common, but different solubilities and boiling points are also possible.

Pharmaceuticals may be available as a racemate or as the pure enantiomer, which might have different potencies.

Crystallization

There are four ways in which a racemate can crystallize, three of which H. W. B. Roozeboom had distinguished by 1899:

  • Conglomerate (sometimes racemic mixture or racemic conglomerate)
  • Racemic compound (sometimes true racemate)
  • Pseudoracemate (sometimes racemic solid solution)
  • Quasiracemate

Resolution

The separation of a racemate into its components, the pure enantiomers, is called a chiral resolution. There are various methods, including crystallization, chromatography, and the use of enzymes. The first successful resolution of a racemate was performed by Louis Pasteur, who manually separated the crystals of a conglomerate.

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