New open source software can help find the safest way to store or dispose of chemicals

Mixing or even discarding chemicals can cause fire, explosion and injury if stored improperly. According to a 2019 estimate by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 4,500 people are injured each year when people mix the wrong pool chemicals. This means that most of the injuries caused by chemicals do not occur in the lab, but at home.

New open source software can help find the safest way to store or dispose of chemicals

To address this awkward problem, a new open source computer program called ChemStor can reduce and prevent the risk of these hazards in labs, offices, schools, and homes by warning users that certain chemicals cannot be safely mixed or stored together.

The new program, developed by engineers at the University of California, Riverside, uses a database of 9,800 chemicals provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which are divided into different reactive groups that separate chemicals using different colors. Colored chemical interaction diagrams show the user whether specific chemicals can be safely mixed or stored together without creating dangerous reactions.

Chemicals of the same color can be stored together, while chemicals with different colors cannot.

Currently, ChemStor software is limited to the command-line interface, which means that users must manually enter the type of chemical and the amount of storage space on the computer.

But, according to a statement from the University of California, Riverside, ChemStor plans to make users more user-friendly, including smartphone apps that can access users’ cameras to record information about chemicals and storage areas.

The work of the UC Riverside engineer is published in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.