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The SciFinder-n Database: To Find Chemical Substances

A basic introduction to SciFinder-n, the database produced by the American Chemical Society.


A colorful line.

Search by: Substance Name, CAS Registry Number (unique number assigned to just one substance), Molecular Formula, and more.  The results of your Substances search will also lead you to reactions and references (scholarly journal articles and other documents) for that substance.

If you prefer, there is a Substances Search video tutorial on the last page of this guide.

Choosing the substances search from the menu.

CAS SciFinder Training

Everything about SciFinder-n.


Sample search: Enter formaldehyde in the top Substances search box and click the search button.  More than 1,000 results are retrieved.  Each individual search result is a starting point with multiple options (labeled A, B, & C in the screenshot below for clarity) for finding further information.

Formaldehyde search result showing CAS registry number, molecular structure, and buttons for References and Reactions.

A.  Click on the CAS RN (Registry Number, in this example, 50-00-0) to go to the Substance Detail screen.  On the Substance Detail screen, choose a physical property, for example, Melting Point (Experimental).  Scroll down the chart that appears to find Melting Points (there will be more than one melting point).

B.  Click on the References button.  In SciFinder-n, all types of documents are included in a References search.  On the left side of the next screen, under Document Type, click the Journal box to limit your References search results to scholarly journal articles.

Document Type - Journal

You can narrow your list of results further by adding additional limits from the left side of the screen, for example:  Substance Role - Reactant or ReagentLanguage - EnglishPublication Year - Set to last 5 years as shown below, or any of the other available limits on the left.

Substance Role limits.

Language - English

Publication Year 2017-2022


Once you've narrowed your search and found reference you like, click the Full Text button in the bottom left corner of a References box, then click Search for Full Text from Pfau Library.

The Full Text button showing the pop up menu with Search for Full Text from Pfau Library.

C.  Click on the Reactions button to find reactions involving formaldehyde.  On the left side of the next screen, narrow your results by choosing, for example,  a Substance Role, Number of Steps, etc., then click the View Reaction Detail link.

A single reaction summary box with the View Reaction Detail link.


CAS SciFinder-n Help: Find Substances Using Search Terms.


Sample search: Enter C7H6O2 in the bottom Substances search box and click the search button.  (HINT: Enter molecular formulas without spaces.). Your search results will look like the one in the example above and may be used in the same way.


CAS SciFinder-n Help: Find Substances Using a Chemical Structure.

A colorful line.