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Best Library and Internet Resources for finding bioengineering information. Also includes information about library services, basic library skills and tools that help with citation management, poster design and writing.


Finding property data for materials, chemicals and other substances can range from easy (if the substance and the property are relatively common) to the most difficult piece of information you've ever tried to find (if the substances and/or properties are uncommon.) The time and effort involved varies just as much and can be hard to predict.  

On this page you'll find instructions on how to do an extensive search of the literature.  

Finding Material Properties

Searching by keyword requires a fair amount of knowledge about both the property and the material.   You could miss finding the data because the authors of the articles and books you're searching used different terminology OR you may accidently miss the answer that could be right in front of you, on the screen, or on the page because it's listed by a property symbol rather than the word.   So before you begin your search, make sure you know the following. 

  1. For the Property: 
    1. Definition
      What is being measured and what is it used for?  If you know this you'll be able to judge an article/book/database more quickly as a likely source (or not) of the information you need.  Example: Bulk Modulus deals with compressibility, a mechanical property, so if you are looking for the Bulk Modulus of a metal, then a book entitled "Mechanical Properties of Metals" would be a possibility but a book entitled "Corrosion in Metals" (corrosion is a chemical reaction) would not.  
    2. Synonyms
      Are there other words that are used for this property?  Because it's impossible to know ahead of time what terminology an article/book/database will use, you should search by all the different ways used to describe the property.  Examples:  Young's Modulus = Modulus of Elasticity, Heat of Formation = Enthalpy of Formation or sometimes just Enthalpy; Molar Extinction Coefficient = Molar Absorptivity.
    3. Symbol
      What is the symbol for your property?  To save space in data tables sometimes the symbol is used as the header of a column rather than the property name.  If you don't recognize the symbol, you may miss the answer that is staring you in the face!
    4. Unit of measurement
      Know the unit of measurement for the same reason you need to know the symbol.  
    5. Formula
      What if you can't find the data for that specific property?  If you know the formula for how that property can be calculated you may be able to find the data to fill in the formula and get the property you need. 
    6. Inverse properties 
      Does your property have an inverse or reciprocal property?  If yes, search for both properties.  This situation is the same as described above under "Formula".  If you can't find one you may be able to find the other and then convert.  For example, electrical conductivity is the inverse of electrical resistivity.   
    7. Field of study/subject area
      Most books and databases are compilations of  related property data, so a book's/database's title will use a term related to that property "group" rather than the name of a specific property.  So if you're looking for heats of formation, you'll probably find more books/databases if you search for them by "Thermodynamics" or "Thermophysics" than you will about "Heat of Formations"  
  2. For the substance:
    1. Synonyms 
      As with properties, most substances may be called by many different names. You need to search all of the names by which the substance may be known.
    2. Chemical formula (if appropriate)
      In many books and database, a chemical substance may be listed by it's molecular formula (MF) rather than by it's name.  For searching purposes, you should add the MF to your list of synonyms for the substance.  

      As with the property symbol, publishers may use the MF as a space saver in a table rather than spelling out the substance name.  So, even if you searched by the substance's name, you may end up with a table that lists the substances by MF instead of name. 

      Also, when viewing a data that is arranged by MF, note how the MFs are listed.  The MFs wil seldom be arranged in the familiar order; for example,  salt (NaCl) is likely to be listed with the components in strict alphabetical order,  ClNa.   Another common way to list MFs is by "Hill Order";  inorganic substances are listed in strict alphabetical order by their components, however, organics are listed by carbon (C), hydrogen (H), followed by the remaining components in alphabetical order.  
    3. Material Type 
      As with the property's "field of search", it is sometimes necessary to search the substance by it's "group" or "material type".   Books/databases frequently compile data for groups of substances such as plastics, polymers, metals, minerals, semiconductors, etc.   

Start with Knovel
​It's the database with the greatest range of both substances and properties.  Knovel will also help fill in the knowledge gaps if you are unfamiliar with your substance or property.  

Recommended Search Techniques: 

  • Text Searching 
    If you need to fill in knowledge gaps about the substance or the property, use the basic text search for either the substance or the property (but not both).  Enter the most commonly used name.  On the results list, use the left-hand column to limit the results to "Text Sections".  After the results page has refreshed look for items that are encyclopedias or books that seem to be an introduction to the topic.  Although dictionaries could be helpful, they usually do not provide enough information.  

    Unfamiliar with Knovel's Text Search?  View this short tutorial (3m 14s)
  • Data Searching
    Although you can do a search for both the substance and property using the basic text search, we recommend the "Data Search" (button is located directly under the search box).  

    Unfamiliar with Knovel's Data Search?  View this short tutorial.  (2m 27s) 
  • Use the Equation Solver
    As mentioned under "What to Search", point A5, if you know there is a formula that can be used to calculate the data you need, it may be easier to fill in the formula than it is to find experimentally discovered property data.  Knovel has over 1,000 equations from all areas of engineering and some from math.   From the Knovel home page, on the dark gray tool bar, click on "Tools" and then click on "Interactive Equations."

    You can do this step in the search process at any time; you many want to try a few more resources to see if you can find the exact data you need before resorting to solving it via a formula. 

    Several instructional options are available about Knovel's Interactive Equations: 
    • Interactive Equations (3m 38s)
      A brief video introduction to the type of equations available and the worksheet.
    • Equation Solver (4m 42s)
      A more detailed video on the features within the worksheets 
    • Advanced Help
      This section contains advanced instructional materials including video demonstrations on doing arithmetic and functional calculations, the User Guide, an FAQ section, and a "cheat sheet" for keyboard shortcuts. 

Databases and books are available that compile property data from many different sources.  These databases and books usually cover many related properties for substances within a "group" such as metals, plastics, organic chemicals, etc. so they are convenient ways to cover a lot of ground with just a few searches.  

  • Databases and Internet Resources: 
    • Alloy Phase Diagram Database
      Over 36,500 binary and ternary phase diagrams, associated phase data (crystal, reaction, and transformation) and bibliographic references for more than 6200 systems. Explore (browse) the database from an alphabetical list of elemental components or search by typing in the components.  ASU Library subscription database. 
    • ARS Pesticides Properties Database
      "Compendium of chemical,physical and environmental properties of 334 widely used pesticides. Free web database. 
    • ASM Handbooks Online
      The online version of the 20+ volume "Metals Handbook" plus supplements, desk editions and archives.  Covers all types of metals and all types of properties; search or browse features available. Volume 23 of the Handbook covers materials for medical devices.  ASU Library subscription database. 
    • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 
       Contains basic physical properties (boiling point, melting point, density, refractive index and solubility) for approximately 11,000 elements and compounds.   Additional types of property data is also available but coverage is limited in each category to small groups of selected compounds.    ASU Library subscription database. 
    • EPA's Chemistry Dashboard
      Covers over 741,000 Chemicals.   Also available as "CompTox Mobile" app for iphone/ipad.   Includes: 
      • Wikipedia entry 
      • Intrinsic Properties
      • Structural Identifiers
      • Record Information
      • Chemical Properties
      • Synonyms
      • Links to external sites with info
      • Product Compositions
      • Bioassays
      • Exposures 
      • Analytical Methods
      • Literature
      • Comments
    • INCHEM
      "Internationally peer reviewed information on chemicals commonly used throughout the world, which may also occur as contaminants in the environment and food."  Covers publications from 14 international agencies.  Free web database. 
    • MatWeb
      Properties of polymers, metals, ceramics, semiconductors and fibers.  Free web database. 
    • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
      "Presents key data for chemicals or substance groupings (such as cyanides, fluorides, manganese compounds) that are found in workplaces. The guide offers key facts, but does not give all relevant data. The NPG helps users recognize and control workplace chemical hazards."  Free web database. 
    • NIST Data Gateway: Free Online Databases 
      The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides a variety of property databases, many of which are freely available on the web.  Most of the databases cover physical and chemical properties and math functions although a few are related to biomedicine.   Free web databases.
    • NPIC Fact Sheets
      The National Pesticide Information Center provides "active Ingredient Fact Sheets [that] summarize the current knowledge for each pesticide ingredient, and are not intended to be an exhaustive review of available scientific information. These fact sheets include information on the chemicals' physical characteristics, mode of action, regulation, health effects, and environmental fate. Our goal is to present relevant scientific information from credible sources."  Written for the general public.  Free web database. 
    • SciFinder
      ​For ASU authorized users only, REQUIRES REGISTRATION.   To access properties of chemical substances, switch search to "Substance Identifier", input the substance name or CAS Registry number; on the results page, click on the CAS Registry number above the structure box for that substance.  Covers experimental and predictive acoustical, biological, chemical, electrical, electronic, flow/diffusion, interface, magnetic, mechanical, optical and thermal properties.   ASU Library subscription database. 
    • SOLV-DB
      Contains chemical, physical and environmental fate data for solvents.  Health, safety, and regulatory information is also covered.  Free web database. 
    • ToxNet (Toxicology Data Network) 
      The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides 16 databases covering toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases.  Free Web Databases.
    • Where to find Material Safety Data Sheets on the Internet
      Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS, sometimes called Safety Data Sheets, SDS) cover information needed by employers and workers who use these materials.  Although not intended for use outside of the workplace, these documents do provide some physical and chemical property data plus toxicity, fire-fighting measures, and safe storage and handling procedures.  Free web database. 
  • Books 
    • Landolt-Börnstein series (L-B)
      QC61 L36x Science Reference 

      This extensive collection contains property data gathered from literature from the 1960s to 2002.  Coverage includes data related to nuclear and particle physics, molecules and radicals, crystals and solid state physics, macroscopic properties, physical chemistry, geophysics, astrophysics and biophysics.   To identify what property data is available in this set and in which volume, use the Springer Materials database.  Please note that the ASU Library do not have a subscription to Springer Materials, however searching within the database is free and the free portion of each record will tell you where the information is within L-B.    For L-B items within Springer Materials that were added after 2002 and for the Springer Material information added from sources other than L-B, please use our Interlibrary Loan service.    
    • ASU Library One Search 

      the ASU Library has many books that contain property data, however, searching for them requires a special strategy.  Most of these books focus on a group of related substances and/or properties and their titles can be generic. Searching for a specific property of a specific substance does not work because the catalog looks at only the book title and in some cases, a table of contents; the catalog does not look at the full text of the book. To find these books, the searcher must think more broadly.  

      If researcher needs to find the heat of formation for a specific substance, they would have more success if they searched for books about thermodynamics or thermophysical properties and the type of substance.   (Example: a keyword search for  THERMODYNAMICS FLUIDS)  In the table below are suggestions for  Substance Group Names, Property Groupings/Subjects, and the types of books that contain data; if you have a better way to describe a group (whether of substances or properties), search that as well.    We recommend a 3-pronged  search strategy: 
      • Substance Group AND Property/Subject Area
      • Substance Group AND Book Type
      • Property/Subject  Area AND Book Type
        Substance Groupings Property Groups Or Subject Areas Book Types

        Agricultural Chemicals
        Biological Products
        Building Materials
        Chemical Elements
        Hazardous Substances
        Heat Resistant Materials
        Inorganic Compounds
        Metal Crystals
        Nanostructured Materials 
        Organic Compounds
        Porous Materials
        Road Materials 

        Acoustic Properties
        Electric Properties 
        Electrochemical Constants
        Environmental Aspects
        Fluid Dynamics
        Health Aspects
        Heat Transmission 
        Impact Testing
        Magnetic Properties
        Mechanical Properties
        Optical Properties
        Physiological Effects
        Plastic Properties
        Thermal Properties
        Thermophysical Properties
        Transport Properties


For the search strategy, search: 

  • specific property name AND the specific substance name 
  • specific property name AND the substance group
  • property group AND the specific substance name
  • property group AND substance group  


Bibliographic Databases

The following databases cover the title, abstract (summary), and subject terms for each document but do not allow you to search the full text.  

  • EI Compendex/Inspec
    Covers journal articles and conference papers in physics and engineering.
  • IEEE Xplore
    ​Covers the publications (journal articles, conference papers and some books) of the IEEE and a few other publishers. Subject coverage is for electrical engineering and its application to other subject areas. 
  • SciFinder
    Covers journal articles and conference papers in all areas of pure and applied chemistry. 
    In Step 3, you searched this database by the substance search; in this case, use the research topic search. This database requires ASU students, staff, and faculty to register (free); if you have not registered previously click on this link


Full Text Databases

  • Google Books
    Books published prior to 1925 are fully accessible; all other books will either provide only a small snippet of the page where the words were found or will not display any text at all. To see if the book is available in the ASU Library, at the Libraries' home page (, use the Library One Search database to search for the book's title; refine results set by selecting "Book/eBook" in the left-hand column under "Content Type" 
  • Google Scholar
    Use either the full text link or the "Get It @ ASU" link to connect to the full text (if available from the ASU Library)
  • Library One Search
  • Academic Search Premier
  • Publisher Websites


The ASU Library acknowledges the twenty-three Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries. Arizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. ASU Library acknowledges the sovereignty of these nations and seeks to foster an environment of success and possibility for Native American students and patrons. We are advocates for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies within contemporary library practice. ASU Library welcomes members of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh, and all Native nations to the Library.