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Organizing Data

Organizing Property Information of Material

Whatever we want to make, chances are that we need several substances. A simple light bulb requires five to ten different substances. What material should be used for some of the parts? We should outline the requirements for these materials, and then select a material that will satisfy the requirements. Often, requirements can be specified as properties such as color, hardness, strength, flexibility, corrosion resistance, temperature tolerance, oxidize-ability, weight, cost, availability, shape, form, etc. Thus, we must equip ourselves with the ability to ask the right questions.

Where do we begin in the process to outline the properties? An organized approach divides the properties into several categories:

  • physical
  • chemical
  • engineering
  • biological
  • dimensional and apperance
  • nuclear
  • etc

An organized system of property information forms a database, which is a valuable commodity. Managing databases is a serious business, and the task is often performed by regional, national, and international organizations. As such, standards for data and formats of tabulation are issues of national and international concern. In the United State, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the American Chemical Association, the National Academy of Sciences are professional organizations take part in establishing quality data resources. In Canada, the Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) has several databases. This link provides various information.

Databases can be in the form of handbooks, and computer files. Often, the database contains information required by a specific discipline. Collection, update, and management of databases are important, and these often become the responsibility of government agencies. Their availability is vital for research and development, which lead to social prosperity. In the United States, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has seven measurement and standards laboratories. They work at all stages of the pipeline from advancing basic science and pioneering new measurement methods to the development of standard test methods, materials, and data to ensure the quality of commercial products. Its physical and chemical properties laboratory works on fundamental and applied properties of many materials ranging from trace components to complicated chemical systems.

Large companies also keep a wealth of data for materials for their identification and application. This is particularly true for companies whose business is based on the applications of materials. They often have a department responsible for collecting, verifying, and managing physical and chemical data on compounds because these data are vital to their business. Since the advent of computers, managing computerized database on properties has become an integrated part of their business. The pharmaceutical giant Merck publishes new editions of the Merck Index from time to time. It provides data and descriptions of chemicals, drugs, and biologicals, this single volume encyclopedia contains over 10,000 monographs.

Since 1918, the Chemical Rubber Co. (CRC) has been gathering data on all sorts of compounds and the CRC Publishing Company publishes a new edition of the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics every year, and revise other handbooks from time to time. In fact, CRC publishes many handbooks.

Activities

Discuss how would you classify properties of material.

Search for a computerized database on the Internet and write a short description of what you have found.

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