Chemical Space Size Estimate MadeCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: June 12, 2012 03:24PM
Every now and then it can be fun to sit back and think about everything you have accomplished in a 'big picture' way. Chemists may not want to do that anymore thanks to a recent study published in the American Chemical Society's Chemical Neuroscience journal. The chemical space is the entirety of substances that could be useful to everyday life and researchers have just estimated how many small molecules occupy it: 1 novemdecillion.
Small molecules include just about every medicine humans have developed. If the total number of small molecules is a novemdecillion, than humans have barely synthesized a tenth of a percent of what is possible.
How big is a novemdecillion? It is a 1 followed by 60 zeros, which is more than some estimates for the number of stars in the Universe. The researchers came up with this number by considering what is possible under our current understanding of the laws of physics and chemistry.
This study is not without purpose though as the researchers suggest ways to use computers to get a handle on the chemical space. Potentially this could allow researchers to discover new medicines in the virtual space before manufacturing them in reality.