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Commerce's NIST Receives Valuable Chemical Data from Dow

As part of an effort to improve the quality of chemical information available to U.S. researchers, manufacturers, students and others, Dow Chemical Co. has donated an extensive collection of infrared spectra chemical data to the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Accepting the donation on behalf of the Commerce Department at a ceremony today in Washington, D.C., was Commerce Deputy Secretary Sam Bodman.

The data will be evaluated by NIST for incorporation into its Chemistry WebBook, an online resource ( that 600,000 users rely on annually for a wide range of research and development applications and educational purposes. The WebBook provides free access to an array of chemical and physical data collections distributed through NIST's Standard Reference Data Program.

"This generous gift is another example of how the private sector is working with the federal government to promote cutting-edge research with wide-ranging applications," Bodman said. "As a chemical engineer, I am especially pleased to see the partnership between Dow and NIST continue to be fruitful for the entire U.S. chemical industry."

"We believe NIST is the right home for this vast collection of infrared spectra because of the agency's commitment to make the information broadly available to the entire scientific community," said Richard M. Gross, Dow vice president for global research and development.

The collection of more than 50,000 infrared spectra, independently valued at more than $5 million, will be an invaluable resource for those seeking data on a wide range of chemical compounds, many of which were first synthesized at Dow laboratories.

The Dow infrared spectra were collected over a 40-year period to characterize and identify numerous pure chemicals, including many synthesized by Dow experimentally as part of product development efforts or for analysis of process measurements. The collection will add to the size, breadth and value of the WebBook, helping scientists to better understand and make predictions about many different materials in the future.

Infrared spectra provide insight into molecular structure. Infrared light is partially transmitted through many materials; the pattern of light frequencies or spectra absorbed by a material depends specifically on the vibrations of the material's atoms and its crystalline structure.

The NIST WebBook contains infrared spectra for about 6,000 molecules in the vapor phase and about 10,000 in the condensed (solid or liquid) phase. Infrared spectra change, sometimes in important ways, from the vapor to the condensed phase, and there also can be large changes depending upon whether the spectra are taken in the liquid or solid phase. The range of data for multiple phases as well as the new structural elements provided by the Dow data will greatly enhance the WebBook.

Anyone with access to the World Wide Web can use the Chemistry WebBook to search for data on specific compounds based on name, chemical formula or Chemical Abstract Service registry number, molecular weight, ionization energy or proton affinity. About 16 percent of current users are at educational institutions, 11 percent are from industry and 30 percent are international (from 200 different countries). The remaining users are private individuals, government scientists, non-profit organizations and Internet service providers. About 55 percent of users return to the WebBook more than once.

NIST officials hope that the Dow contribution will spur other donations from industrial laboratories to help make more chemical information widely available. Donors receive tax deductions based on the value of the data, which is assessed independently by a company that specializes in such work.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes measurement, standards and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade and improve the quality of life.

Released July 31, 2003, Updated January 20, 2023