UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

September 11, 2009

50 MILLION CHEMICALS IN THE WORLD

Science News - Chemical Abstracts Service - an American Chemical Society subsidiary - identified the 50 millionth compound known. Arylmethylidene heterocycle - the molecule that qualified for the momentous spot - is a future candidate for reducing neuropathic pain.

Since 1907, the Columbus, Ohio-based Chem Abstracts has maintained a registry of all publicly disclosed chemicals. Over the years, this registry has become the definitive one-stop shopping site for tracking down any and every known compound, including the names for each (as some compounds have as many as 1,000 monikers), a compound's structure and any general characteristics (such as melting point).

"Thirty years ago, we felt six or seven million substances might be about it," says Roger Schenck, who manages content planning at Chem Abstracts. He says there had been a suspicion that once chemists had characterized all of these, his group might become little more than caretakers of a static database. However, chemical designers continue to keep his group plenty busy. . .

To search for new candidates, Chem Abstracts' staff pores over journal articles, data filed with 59 patent authorities around the world, commercial chemical suppliers' catalogs and announcements, and reports surfacing on the Internet. In all, "we cover over 50 languages," Schenck says.

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