Polymorph Formation and Nucleation Mechanism of Tolfenamic Acid in Solution: An Investigation of Pre-nucleation Solute Association

Alessandra Mattei and Tonglei Li
Pharmaceutical Research, 29:460-470, 2012

Abstract (from publisher):

Purpose: Crystallization from solution involves nucleation and growth; growth conditions greatly influence self-association behaviors of solute molecules in these steps, affecting crystal packing of organic molecules. We examined the role of pre-nucleation association to provide insights into the mutual influence between molecular conformation in solution and packing in the solid state.

Methods: Crystallization experiments of tolfenamic acid were conducted in ethanol under different supersaturation conditions. UV spectroscopy was performed to study self-association of solute molecules in ethanol as a function of concentration. Intermolecular interaction energies of tolfenamic acid dimers were calculated with quantum mechanical methods.

Results: As supersaturation increased, growth of the most stable polymorph outpaced the metastable one, contradicting Ostwald’s Rule of Stages. UV spectroscopy measurement suggests solute molecules exist as hydrogen-bonded dimers and more dimers form as total concentration increases. Hydrogen bonding in the most stable form is significantly stronger than that in the metastable form.

Conclusions: With the fact that molecular conformation is different in the two polymorphs, as concentration increases, solute molecules rearrange their conformations to form stronger hydrogen-bonded dimers in solution, resulting in nucleation of the most stable form.

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