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Volume 88 Issue 12 | p. 56 | Newscripts
Issue Date: March 22, 2010

Chemistry: There's An App For That

Department: Newscripts
Keywords: iPhone apps, cosmetics, structures, ACS Mobile
iPhone:
Now connected to chemistry apps.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
8812ns_iPhonecxd2
 
iPhone:
Now connected to chemistry apps.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

I must admit that I'm one of those people who are both annoyed by and addicted to those pervasive little SMARTPHONE SOFTWARE PROGRAMS called "apps" that keep you connected to someone or something at all times.

Newer apps go way beyond the games, weather predictions, stock market updates, and social-networking programs that simultaneously delight and frustrate me. Now, I can stay connected to the chemical enterprise in ways that are intriguing and a little frightening at the same time.

Take, for instance, Cosmetifique. The author of Cosmetifique, Alfredo Delli Bovi, tells me he put the app together initially to help him and his girlfriend decide which cosmetics ingredients were "good," or natural, and which were not. His app, he says, extends that power to other people. They can share their findings with friends via e-mail or through social-networking forums such as Facebook and Twitter.

Although this reporter is not about to admit to the world that he is a heavy user of cosmetics, I was still intrigued. So I plunked down $1.99 at the online iPhone app store to get a gander at the mobile application that claims to characterize about 5,000 personal care ingredients listed in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI).

Typing in ingredients, I found colored bubbles next to each one. Green means the ingredient is good, yellow means it is acceptable, orange is probably not so good, and red is awful.

I thought INCI ingredients were supposed to be safe to use. However, Cosmetifique's author, who has taken chemistry classes and is in his last year of high school in Italy, determined what was natural and thought to be safe.

A little less judgmental and perhaps more useful to students of chemistry is ChemMobi, a freebie. This bauble from scientific software firm Symyx Technologies and the Royal Society of Chemistry has no bubbles, but it does give budding and mature scientists alike access to 30 million chemical structures, molecular formulas, and Material Safety Data Sheets.

iPhone:
Now connected to chemistry apps.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
appstore-200
 
iPhone:
Now connected to chemistry apps.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

I like the fact that I can share the information on the iPhone with people sitting next to me. But the app doesn't give users the option to share chemical structures with their "friends" on Twitter or Facebook. They have to download their own app.

The gardener in me likes TankMix Calculator from DuPont Crop Protection. Admittedly, I'm not about to mix up enough fertilizer or pesticide to treat acres of farmland at my lush urban homestead. But the app does make it easy to calculate gallon-sized treatments for my modest 600-sq-ft backyard, and it didn't cost me anything to download this specialty calculator.

And if I were an analytical chemist, I could use the LC Calculator app from Agilent Technologies. It allows users to model liquid chromatography flow rate and back pressure for a variety of conditions and chromatography column dimensions to determine the most efficient way to analyze a sample. It's a freebie, too.

The reporter in me gets a real kick out of the new ACS Mobile app that came out just last week (C&EN Online Latest News, March 15). Even though it costs $2.99, it lets me see summaries of the latest "ASAP" articles posted from 38 ACS journals. And the news junkie in me can access C&EN's news feed and can read the Latest News articles on my screen wherever I happen to be, as long as I have an Internet connection.

Best of all, my iPhone has an off switch. When the news becomes overwhelming, or when I'm just not in the mood to be linked in, I can disconnect.

 
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