Characteristic Reactions of Hexoses

  • All soluble carbohydrates, since they contain asymmetric carbon atoms, with the consequent larger groups on one side of the molecule than the other, rotate the plane of polarized light when it passes through a solution of the carbohydrate in question. The amount of the rotation depends upon the nature of the carbohydrate, the concentration of the solution, and the length of the column of solution through which the ray of polarized light passes. But the same definite amount of the same sugar, dissolved in the same volume of water, and placed in a tube of the same length, will always cause the same angular deviation, or rotation, of the plane in which the polarized light which passes through it is vibrated. In other words, the same number of molecules of the optically active substance in solution will always produce the same rotatory effect. This is called the specific rotatory power of the substance in question. It is expressed as the number of degrees of angular deviation of the plane of polarized light caused by a column of the solution exactly 200 mm. in length, the concentration of the solution being 100 grams of substance in 100 cc. at a temperature of 20° C.