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A quantitative analysis of relative stabilities in organic crystal structures is possible by means of reliable calculations of interaction energies between pairs of molecules. Such calculations have been performed by the PIXEL method for 1108 non-ionic and 98 ionic organic crystals, yielding total energies and separate Coulombic polarization and dispersive contributions. A classification of molecule–molecule interactions emerges based on pair energy and its first derivative, the interaction force, which is estimated here explicitly along an approximate stretching path. When molecular separation is not at the minimum-energy value, as frequently happens, forces may be attractive or repulsive. This information provides a fine structural fingerprint and may be relevant to the mechanical properties of materials. The calculations show that the first coordination shell includes destabilizing contacts in ∼ 9% of crystal structures for compounds with highly polar chemical groups (e.g. CN, NO2, SO2). Calculations also show many pair contacts with weakly stabilizing (neutral) energies; such fine modulation is presumably what makes crystal structure prediction so difficult. Ionic organic salts or zwitterions, including small peptides, show a Madelung-mode pairing of opposite ions where the total lattice energy is stabilized from sums of strongly repulsive and strongly attractive interactions. No obvious relationships between atom–atom distances and interaction energies emerge, so analyses of crystal packing in terms of geometrical parameters alone should be conducted with due care.

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