Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

Specific Rotation

[ "article:topic", "authorname:ggunawardena" ]
  • Page ID
    42853
  • Observed rotation of an optically active compound, measured using the polarimeter, depends on the experimental conditions and, therefore, is not a characteristic property of the compound.  Specific rotation (symbol: [α]λT) of an optically active compound is defined as follows:

     

     

     

    α = observed rotation measured using a polarimeter
    l = length of sample tube
    C = concentration, if a solution of the compound is used for the experiment, or density, if a neat sample of the compound is used
    T = Temperature (usually 25 ºC)
    λ = wave length of the light used (usually 589 nm)

    Specific rotation of a compound is a characteristic property of the compound as long as the temperature, the wave length of the light, and, if a solution is used for the experiment, the solvent are specified.  The units of specific rotation are degreesmLg-1dm-1.  However, since the units of specific rotation are always the above, traditionally, specific rotation is reported without units.

    eg: