Efficient Strategy for Determining the Atomic-Resolution Structure of Micro- and Nanocrystalline Solids within Polymeric Microbeads: Domain-Edited NMR Crystallography

Precise structural analysis of multiphase polymeric nanocomposites remains a challenge even in the presence of high-quality X-ray diffraction data. This contribution thus addresses our attempt to formulate a combined analytical strategy for obtaining the atomic-resolution structure of multicomponent polymeric solids with complex nanodomain architecture. In this strategy, through the application of T1-filtered solid-state NMR spectroscopy, the individual components are successively distinguished and selected, and the corresponding 1H, 13C, and 15N isotropic chemical shifts are explicitly assigned. Thereafter, using an automated protocol allowing for processing and statistical analysis of large data sets, the experimentally determined NMR parameters are systematically compared with those DFT-calculated for the representative set of crystal structure predictions. Particular attention is devoted to the analysis of NMR parameters of hydrogen-bonded protons which are responsible for molecular packing. As a result of this search, the structures of micro- and nanosized crystallites dispersed in the polymeric matrix are determined and independently verified by the measurements of through-space dipolar couplings. The potential of this strategy is demonstrated on injectable polyanhydride microbeads consisting of a mixture of microcrystalline decitabine and nanocrystalline sebacic acid, both incorporated in the semicrystalline polymeric matrix of poly­(sebacic acid). Through the synergistic interplay between the measurements, calculations, and the statistical analysis, we have developed an integrated approach providing structural information that is challenging to elucidate using conventional diffraction approaches. This combination of experimental and theoretical approaches enables one to determine the structural arrangements of molecules in situations which are not tractable by conventional spectroscopic techniques.