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May 18, 2017


How do I search for chemical names in SciFinder?


Under Explore Substances, select the "Substance Identifier" option. Chemical nomenclature in general is very complex, and follows different sets of rules. CAS uses its own nomenclature rules to assign systematic names to chemical substances, and their rules have changed substantially over the years.

The Registry database indexes the current official CA Index Name for all substances, along with any former CA Index Names and various synonyms and trade names that have been used in the literature. However, Registry is not a comprehensive source of chemical names and trade names. It's straightforward to search by well-known common names (ex. acetic acid, cyclohexane, acetaminophen), familiar trade names (ex. Taxol), and common abbreviations (ex. MTBE). Searching systematic names is less reliable because of the many possible variations in a name string. In general, the longer the systematic name the less likely you'll find it by typing it exactly.

SciFinder looks first for an exact match to the name as you type it. If it finds an exact match, it displays only that compound, and no others. For example, if you search for "Gallopamil" it will retrieve the one compound that has that exact name, but it will NOT retrieve compounds where "Gallopamil" is a segment of a longer name, such as "Gallopamil hydrochloride" (or any salts or multicomponent compounds).

If it doesn't find an exact match, it next looks for the string you entered as a segment within a name. It will retrieve all such partial matches. For long names, you'll have a better chance of getting a hit if you break it up into discrete segments than if you type it all as a single unbroken string. SciFinder will retrieve all the compounds that have names including all the segments, and you can browse these for the one you want.

If you get too many hits, add locants to some segments to narrow the possibilities.
For example, to search for,
2-(3-buten-1-yl)-2,3,4,9-tetrahydro-1H-Pyrido[3,4-b]indole-1-carboxylic acid type some of the identifiable functional group segments, in any order, separated by spaces: 3-buten-1-yl 2,3,4,9-tetrahydro 1H-pyrido 1-carboxylic and you'll get a table of matches to browse. It is not currently possible to browse an alphabetical index of names in SciFinder.

As with all chemical database tools, the chemical name is not the ideal way to search for a compound because of the complexity and inconsistency of chemical nomenclature and the diversity of synonyms and trade names used in the literature. Never rely on a name search when doing a comprehensive search for a compound.

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