As I’m a biologist, rather than an inorganic chemist or a mineralogist, I don’t have much (well, any) need to look at crystal structures of simple inorganic compounds. Just as well…
…our story begins at Twitter, where David Bradley asks:
Anyone know where to find crystal structures of sodium hypochlorite and sodium bisulfate (cif files or similar) ? #science #crystal
Never thought about it, you say, but surely it can’t be very difficult. So you head to Google and try searches such as “inorganic crystal structure database”. Where you unearth two main players: the Inorganic Crystal Structure Database (ICSD) and the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD). Both are private, requiring registration, login and in one case, installation of an X-client.
Coming from bioinformatics where comparable resources such as the PDB are freely-available via web interfaces, I find this utterly perplexing. Why do these research communities stand for it? Is anyone developing free, open alternatives?