I am currently being taught optical activity of compounds and I had this question:

Optical rotation (optical activity) is the turning of the plane of linearly polarized light about the direction of motion as the light travels through certain materials.

What happens inside these compounds (for example sucrose) that causes them to behave on this manner. By that I mean to say that what takes place in the compound due to which they turn the plane of light when it travels through these materials?

  • $\begingroup$ Look at your two hands. They are mirror images of each other. That is also why you can't put your right shoe on your left foot. Then see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chirality_%28chemistry%29 $\endgroup$
    – MaxW
    Nov 9 '15 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ It's a good question, but asking about physical reason how optical rotation really works could be better for Physics SE - it seems many chemists are satisfied with practical side of this phenomenon. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Nov 9 '15 at 20:32