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Polymorphism (materials science) facts for kids

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In materials science, polymorphism is the ability of a solid material to exist in more than one form or crystal structure. Polymorphism can be found in any crystalline material including polymers, minerals, and metals. It is related to allotropy, which refers to chemical elements. The complete morphology of a material is described by polymorphism and other variables such as crystal habit, amorphous fraction or crystallographic defects. Polymorphism is important in fields such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, pigments, dyes, foods, and explosives.

Polimorphism that exists because of a difference in crystal packing is called packing polymorphism. Polymorphism can also result from the existence of different conformers of the same molecule in conformational polymorphism. In pseudopolymorphism the different crystal types are the result of hydration or solvation. This is more correctly referred to as solvomorphism as different solvates have different chemical formulas. An example of an organic polymorph is glycine, which is able to form monoclinic and hexagonal crystals. Silica is known to form many polymorphs, the most important of which are; α-quartz, β-quartz, tridymite, cristobalite, moganite, coesite, and stishovite. A classical example is the pair of minerals, calcite and aragonite, both forms of calcium carbonate.

An analogous phenomenon for amorphous materials is polyamorphism, when a substance can take on several different amorphous modifications.

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