Salting out the polar polymorph: Analysis by alchemical solvent transformation

Nathan Duff, Yuba Raj Dahal, Jeremy D. Schmit, Baron Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We computationally examine how adding NaCl to an aqueous solution with α- and γ-glycine nuclei alters the structure and interfacial energy of the nuclei. The polar γ-glycine nucleus in pure aqueous solution develops a melted layer of amorphous glycine around the nucleus. When NaCl is added, a double layer is formed that stabilizes the polar glycine polymorph and eliminates the surface melted layer. In contrast, the non-polar α-glycine nucleus is largely unaffected by the addition of NaCl. To quantify the stabilizing effect of NaCl on γ-glycine nuclei, we alchemically transform the aqueous glycine solution into a brine solution of glycine. The alchemical transformation is performed both with and without a nucleus in solution and for nuclei of α-glycine and γ-glycine polymorphs. The calculations show that adding 80 mg/ml NaCl reduces the interfacial free energy of a γ-glycine nucleus by 7.7 mJ/m2 and increases the interfacial free energy of an α-glycine nucleus by 3.1 mJ/m2. Both results are consistent with experimental reports on nucleation rates which suggest: J(α, brine) < J(γ, brine) < J(α, water). For γ-glycine nuclei, Debye-Hückel theory qualitatively, but not quantitatively, captures the effect of salt addition. Only the alchemical solvent transformation approach can predict the results for both polar and non-polar polymorphs. The results suggest a general "salting out" strategy for obtaining polar polymorphs and also a general approach to computationally estimate the effects of solvent additives on interfacial free energies for nucleation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014501
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 7 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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