Nonequimolar Mixture of Organic Acids and Bases: An Exception to the Rule of Thumb for Salt or Cocrystal

Saied Md Pratik, Ayan Datta

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26 Scopus citations


Formation of salt and/or cocrystal from organic acid-base mixtures has significant consequences in the pharmaceutical industry and its related intellectual property rights (IPR). On the basis of calculations using periodic dispersion corrected DFT (DFT-D2) on formic acid-pyridine adduct, we have demonstrated that an equimolar stoichiometric ratio (1:1) exists as a neutral cocrystal. On the other hand, the nonequimolar stoichiometry (4:1) readily forms an ionic salt. While the former result is in agreement with the δpKa rule between the base and the acid, the latter is not. Calculations reveal that, within the equimolar manifold (n:n; n = 1-4), the mixture exists as a hydrogen bonded complex in a cocrystal-like environment. However, the nonequimolar mixture in a ratio of 5:1 and above readily forms salt-like structures. Because of the cooperative nature of hydrogen bonding, the strength of the O-H···N hydrogen bond increases and eventually transforms into O-···H-N+ (complete proton transfer) as the ratio of formic acid increases and forms salt as experimentally observed. Clearly, an enhanced polarization of formic acid on aggregation increases its acidity and, hence, facilitates its transfer to pyridine. Motion of the proton from formic acid to pyridine is shown to follow a relay mechanism wherein the proton that is far away from pyridine is ionized and is subsequently transferred to pyridine via hopping across the neutral formic acid molecules (Grotthuss type pathway). The dynamic nature of protons in the condensed phase is also evident for cocrystals as the barrier of intramolecular proton migration in formic acid (leading to tautomerism), δHtautomer = 17.1 kcal/mol in the presence of pyridine is half of that in free formic acid (cf. δHtautomer = 34.2 kcal/mol). We show that an acid-base reaction can be altered in the solid state to selectively form a cocrystal or salt depending on the strength and nature of aggregation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7606-7613
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number30
StatePublished - Aug 4 2016

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Chemical Society.


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