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Definitions: Chiral


In chemical terms, the most common cause of chirality in a molecule is an atom that is bonded to four different groups. This atom with four different groups is called a stereocenter (or stereogenic center).

For example, consider the following molecule.




This molecule has no plane or center of symmetry, so it is a chiral molecule. The third and fourth carbons from the left are stereocenters, because they are each bonded to four different groups. The hydrogens have been drawn in here to make it easier to determine that there are four different groups; this will not be done in future sections.

A chiral molecule that has stereocenters can have multiple three-dimensional representations. In general, a chiral molecule with stereocenters has 2n different forms, where n is the number of stereocenters in the molecule.

How many different forms does the above molecule have?

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