The past decade has witnessed the emergence of new measurement approaches and applications for chiral thin films and materials enabled by the observations of the high sensitivity of second-order nonlinear optical measurements to chirality. In thin films, the chiral response to second harmonic generation and sum frequency generation (SFG) from a single molecular monolayer is often comparable with the achiral response. The chiral specificity also allows for symmetry-allowed SFG in isotropic chiral media, confirming predictions made ∼50 years ago. With these experimental demonstrations in hand, an important challenge is the construction of intuitive predictive models that allow the measured chiral response to be meaningfully related back to molecular and macromolecular structure. This review defines and considers three distinct mechanisms for chiral effects in uniaxially oriented assemblies: orientational chirality, intrinsic chirality, and isotropic chirality. The role of each is discussed in experimental and computational studies of bacteriorhodopsin films, binaphthol, and collagen. Collectively, these three model systems support a remarkably simple framework for quantitatively recovering the measured chiral-specific activity.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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