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Keywords:

  • polymorphism;
  • crystal structure prediction;
  • crystal energy landscape

Crystal structure prediction (CSP) studies are not limited to being a search for the most thermodynamically stable crystal structure, but play a valuable role in understanding polymorphism, as shown by interdisciplinary studies where the crystal energy landscape has been explored experimentally and computationally. CSP usually produces more thermodynamically plausible crystal structures than known polymorphs. This article illustrates some reasons why: because (i) of approximations in the calculations, particularly the neglect of thermal effects (see §1.1); (ii) of the molecular rearrangement during nucleation and growth (see §1.2); (iii) the solid-state structures observed show dynamic or static disorder, stacking faults, other defects or are not crystalline and so represent more than one calculated structure (see §1.3); (iv) the structures are metastable relative to other molecular compositions (see §1.4); (v) the right crystallization experiment has not yet been performed (see §1.5) or (vi) cannot be performed (see §1.6) and the possibility (vii) that the polymorphs are not detected or structurally characterized (see §1.7). Thus, we can only aspire to a general predictive theory for polymorphism, as this appears to require a quantitative understanding of the kinetic factors involved in all possible multi-component crystallizations. For a specific molecule, analysis of the crystal energy landscape shows the potential complexity of its crystallization behaviour.