3-Acyl-sn-glycerols with even-numbered saturated fatty acyl chains from decanoate to lignocerate were synthesized. Successful hydrolysis of the long acyl chain intermediate 1,2-isopropylidene-3-acyl-sn-glycerols from stearate to lignocerate was accomplished by applying the compounds to silica gel and exposing them to hydrogen chloride gas at -75 degrees C. The purity of the compounds was checked by boric acid impregnated thin-layer chromatography, 13C NMR, and reverse-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography. Differential scanning calorimetry and X-ray diffraction techniques were used to study the polymorphism of the compounds. In the beta phase obtained from solvent of crystallization, the acyl chain packing was in a two-dimensional oblique lattice with specific chain-chain interactions with a tilt angle of 55.4 degrees from the bilayer plane. The thickness of the region containing two glycerol head groups was 12.7 A. The phase transition enthalpy of melting for the beta phase was 1.06 kcal/mol of CH2. On being cooled these compounds crystallized reversibly to an unstable alpha phase, which on being further cooled underwent a second crystallization to a beta or beta' phase. The thermodynamic parameters and long spacings of these compounds in both beta and alpha phases were linear, indicating isostructural packing in each phase. The enthalpy of the melting transition of the alpha phase was 0.69 kcal/mol of CH2. In this phase, the chains were packed in a hexagonal lattice with nonspecific chain-chain interactions. The thickness of the head-group region (12.2 A) and the tilt angle (55 degrees) of the acyl chains in the alpha phase were very similar to those in the beta phase.