What does D, L, R and S stand for?

01 April 2014

Question

So, we were talking about R and S-carvone, but what do R and S stand for? We also have D and L, and we also plus and minus. Why are there all these different letters?

Answer

Steven - There are simply different systems that have come about for naming them. So, for example, the D and the L, they refer to the way in which certain substances rotate the plane of polarisation of polarised light. So, D is dextrorotatory, L is levorotatory, so right and left. That's one of them. Another of them is another set of arbitrary rules for the order in which bonds are substituted.

Harriet - Thanks and the R is recto and S is sinister, I think.

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