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In materials science , polymorphism is the ability of a solid material to exist in more than one form or crystal structure. Polymorphism can potentially be found in any crystalline material including polymers , minerals , and metals , and is related to allotropy , which refers to chemical elements. The complete morphology of a material is described by polymorphism and other variables such as crystal habit , amorphous fraction or crystallographic defects.
Polymorphism is relevant to the fields of pharmaceuticals , agrochemicals , pigments , dyestuffs , foods , and explosives. When polymorphism exists as a result of a difference in crystal packing, it is called packing polymorphism. Polymorphism can also result from the existence of different conformers of the same molecule in conformational polymorphism.
In pseudopolymorphism the different crystal types are the result of hydration or solvation. This is more correctly referred to as solvomorphism as different solvates have different chemical formulae.
An example of an organic polymorph is glycine , which is able to form monoclinic and hexagonal crystals. A classical example is the pair of minerals, calcite and aragonite , both forms of calcium carbonate. An analogous phenomenon for amorphous materials is polyamorphism , when a substance can take on several different amorphous modifications. In terms of thermodynamics , there are two types of polymorphic behaviour.
For a monotropic system, a plot of the free energy of the various polymorphs against temperature do not cross before all polymorphs melt—in other words, any transition from one polymorph to another below melting point will be irreversible. For an enantiotropic system, a plot of the free energy against temperature shows a crossing point threshold before the various melting points.
Present-day analysis  identifies three polymorphs for benzamide: The most stable form is monoclinic form I.
The hydrogen bonding mechanisms are the same for all three phases; however, they differ strongly in their pi-pi interactions. Polymorphs have different stabilities and may spontaneously convert from a metastable form unstable form to the stable form at a particular temperature.
Various conditions in the crystallisation process is the main reason responsible for the development of different polymorphic forms. Despite the potential implications, polymorphism is not always well understood. The new crystal type is produced when a co-crystal of caffeine and maleic acid 2: Both polymorphs consist of sheets of molecules connected through hydrogen bonding of the carboxylic acid groups; but, in form I, the sheets alternate with respect of the net dipole moment , whereas, in form II, the sheets are oriented in the same direction.
Only one crystal form of 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene was known in the space group Pbca. In , a second polymorph was obtained in the space group Pca 2 1 when the compound was crystallised in the presence of an additive, trisindane.
This experiment shows that additives can induce the appearance of polymorphic forms. Walter McCrone has stated that "every compound has different polymorphic forms, and that, in general, the number of forms known for a given compound is proportional to the time and money spent in research on that compound. Ostwald's rule or Ostwald's step rule ,  conceived by Wilhelm Ostwald , states that in general it is not the most stable but the least stable polymorph that crystallises first.
See for examples the aforementioned benzamide, dolomite or phosphorus , which on sublimation first forms the less stable white and then the more stable red allotrope. Ostwald suggested that the solid first formed on crystallisation of a solution or a melt would be the least stable polymorph.
This can be explained on the basis of irreversible thermodynamics, structural relationships, or a combined consideration of statistical thermodynamics and structural variation with temperature. Ostwald's rule is not a universal law but is only a possible tendency in nature.
Structural changes occur due to polymorphic transitions in binary metal oxides and these lead to different polymorphs in binary metal oxides. Table below gives the polymorphic forms of key functional binary metal oxides, such as: Polymorphism is important in the development of pharmaceutical ingredients. Many drugs receive regulatory approval for only a single crystal form or polymorph. In a classic patent case the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline defended its patent for the polymorph type II of the active ingredient in Zantac against competitors while that of the polymorph type I had already expired.
Medicine is often administered orally as a crystalline solid and dissolution rates depend on the exact crystal form of a polymorph. In the case of the antiviral drug ritonavir , not only was one polymorph virtually inactive compared to the alternative crystal form, but the inactive polymorph was subsequently found to convert the active polymorph into the inactive form on contact, due to its lower energy and greater stability making spontaneous interconversion energetically favourable.
Even a speck of the lower energy polymorph could convert large stockpiles of ritonavir into the medically useless inactive polymorph, and this caused major issues with production which ultimately were only solved by reformulating the medicine into gelcaps and tablets, rather than the original capsules. Cefdinir is a drug appearing in 11 patents from 5 pharmaceutical companies in which a total of 5 different polymorphs are described.
The original inventor Fujisawa now Astellas with US partner Abbott extended the original patent covering a suspension with a new anhydrous formulation. Competitors in turn patented hydrates of the drug with varying water content, which were described with only basic techniques such as infrared spectroscopy and XRPD , a practice criticised in one review  because these techniques at the most suggest a different crystal structure but are unable to specify one; however, given the recent advances in XRPD, it is perfectly feasible to obtain the structure of a polymorph of a drug, even if there is no single crystal available for that polymorphic form.
These techniques also tend to overlook chemical impurities or even co-components. Abbott researchers realised this the hard way when, in one patent application, it was ignored that their new cefdinir crystal form was, in fact, that of a pyridinium salt. The review also questioned whether the polymorphs offered any advantages to the existing drug: Acetylsalicylic acid has an elusive second polymorph that was first discovered by Vishweshwar et al.
In form I, two aspirin molecules form centrosymmetric dimers through the acetyl groups with the acidic methyl proton to carbonyl hydrogen bonds , and, in form II, each aspirin molecule forms the same hydrogen bonds, but then with two neighbouring molecules instead of one. With respect to the hydrogen bonds formed by the carboxylic acid groups, both polymorphs form identical dimer structures.
The aspirin polymorphs contain identical 2-dimensional sections and are therefore more precisely described as polytypes. Crystal polymorphs can disappear.
Also, findings of one crystal structure intermittently polymorphing over time into another have been recorded. The drug paroxetine was subject to a lawsuit that hinged on such a pair of polymorphs.
These so-called "disappearing" polymorphs are most likely metastable kinetic forms. Polytypes are a special case of polymorphs, where multiple close-packed crystal structures differ in one dimension only. Polytypes have identical close-packed planes, but differ in the stacking sequence in the third dimension perpendicular to these planes.
Silicon carbide SiC has more than known polytypes, although most are rare. All the polytypes of SiC have virtually the same density and Gibbs free energy. The most common SiC polytypes are shown in Table 1. ZnS and CdI 2 are also polytypical. Some polytypes of SiC. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Dinnebier, and Josef Breu Angew. Samuel Motherwell; William Jones Angewandte Chemie International Edition. Weissberger, Interscience Publishers, London, , vol. Organic Process Research and Development.