Crystal Structure of Urotropine Under High Pressure and Non-Hydrostatic Stress-Induced Phase Transitions in Cage Compounds

High-pressure behavior of hexamthyleneteramine (urotropine) was studied in situ using angle-dispersive single-crystal synchrotron X-ray diffraction (XRD) and Fourier transform infrared absorption (FTIR) spectroscopy. Experiments were conducted in various pressure transmitting media (helium and neon for XRD, nitrogen and KBr for FTIR experiments) to study the effect of deviatoric stress on phase transformations. Contrary to As4O6 arsenolite, a material of similar cage-like molecular structure, no pressure-induced helium penetration into the crystal structure was observed. Instead, two pressure-induced structural changes are observed. The first one is suggested by the following occurrences: (i) gradual quenching of the magnitudes of atomic displacement parameters, (ii) diminishing libration contribution to the experimental C−N bond length, (iii) discontinuity in calculated IR-active vibrational modes and (iv) asymptotically vanishing discrepancy between the experimental and DFT‑calculated unit cell volume. All these features reach a plateau at ~4 GPa and can be attributed to a damping of molecular librations and atomic thermal motion, pointing to the existence of a second-order isostructural phase transition. The second transformation, with an onset at ~12.5 GPa is a first-order phase transition to a tetragonal structure, characterized by sluggish kinetics and considerable hysteresis upon decompression. However, it occurs only in non-hydrostatic conditions, induced by a deviatoric stress in the sample. This behavior finds analogies in similar cubic crystals built of highly symmetric cage-like molecules and may be considered a common feature of such systems. Last but not least, it is worth noting successful Hirshfeld atom refinements, carried out for the incomplete high-pressure diffraction data up to 14 GPa, yielded more realistic C−H bond lengths than the independent atom model.