Enhancing crystal growth using polyelectrolyte solutions and shear flow.

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From: Nature(Vol. 579, Issue 7797)
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Document Type: Report
Length: 6,952 words
Lexile Measure: 1740L

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Abstract :

The ability to grow properly sized and good quality crystals is one of the cornerstones of single-crystal diffraction, is advantageous in many industrial-scale chemical processes.sup.1-3, and is important for obtaining institutional approvals of new drugs for which high-quality crystallographic data are required.sup.4-7. Typically, single crystals suitable for such processes and analyses are grown for hours to days during which any mechanical disturbances--believed to be detrimental to the process--are carefully avoided. In particular, stirring and shear flows are known to cause secondary nucleation, which decreases the final size of the crystals (though shear can also increase their quantity.sup.8-14). Here we demonstrate that in the presence of polymers (preferably, polyionic liquids), crystals of various types grow in common solvents, at constant temperature, much bigger and much faster when stirred, rather than kept still. This conclusion is based on the study of approximately 20 diverse organic molecules, inorganic salts, metal-organic complexes, and even some proteins. On typical timescales of a few to tens of minutes, these molecules grow into regularly faceted crystals that are always larger (with longest linear dimension about 16 times larger) than those obtained in control experiments of the same duration but without stirring or without polymers. We attribute this enhancement to two synergistic effects. First, under shear, the polymers and their aggregates disentangle, compete for solvent molecules and thus effectively 'salt out' (that is, induce precipitation by decreasing solubility of) the crystallizing species. Second, the local shear rate is dependent on particle size, ultimately promoting the growth of larger crystals (but not via surface-energy effects as in classical Ostwald ripening). This closed-system, constant-temperature crystallization driven by shear could be a valuable addition to the repertoire of crystal growth techniques, enabling accelerated growth of crystals required by the materials and pharmaceutical industries. A method of growing crystals that does not require undisturbed solutions involves adding polyelectrolytes to the starter solution and shearing (that is, stirring).

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A649100249