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Open Access Publications from the University of California

High-pressure polymorphism in l -threonine between ambient pressure and 22 GPa


The crystal structure of l-threonine has been studied to a maximum pressure of 22.3 GPa using single-crystal X-ray and neutron powder diffraction. The data have been interpreted in the light of previous Raman spectroscopic data by Holanda et al. (J. Mol. Struct. (2015), 1092, 160-165) in which it is suggested that three phase transitions occur at ca. 2 GPa, between 8.2 and 9.2 GPa and between 14.0 and 15.5 GPa. In the first two of these transitions the crystal retains its P212121 symmetry, in the third, although the unit cell dimensions are similar either side of the transition, the space group symmetry drops to P21. The ambient pressure form is labelled phase I, with the successive high-pressure forms designated I′, II and III, respectively. Phases I and I′ are very similar, the transition being manifested by a slight rotation of the carboxylate group. Phase II, which was found to form between 8.5 and 9.2 GPa, follows the gradual transformation of a long-range electrostatic contact becoming a hydrogen bond between 2.0 and 8.5 GPa, so that the transformation reflects a change in the way the structure accommodates compression rather than a gross change of structure. Phase III, which was found to form above 18.2 GPa in this work, is characterised by the bifurcation of a hydroxyl group in half of the molecules in the unit cell. Density functional theory (DFT) geometry optimisations were used to validate high-pressure structural models and PIXEL crystal lattice and intermolecular interaction energies are used to explain phase stabilities in terms of the intermolecular interactions.

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