Calculating Molecular Mass With MX - Using a Complete Hydrogen to Uranium System of Atomic Masses Linked to the Primary Literature

December 08, 2008

Calculating molecular mass is an important capability in cheminformatics. Performing the calculation itself is trivial, but determining what the masses will be used can be tricky. Ideally, each measurement in a system of atomic masses and isotopic distributions would be traceable to the primary literature.

MX is an open source cheminformatics toolkit written in Java that can be used without modification in a variety of other languages including Python and Ruby. The latest release of MX, v0.106.0 includes a complete hydrogen to uranium system of atomic masses linked to the primary literature.

You can try out the new feature with an interactive Jython shell (or interactive JRuby, if you'd prefer). Let's calculate the molecular mass of cubane. After downloading the mx-0.106.0 jarfile to your working directory, use:

Jython Completion Shell
Jython 2.5b0 (trunk:5540, Oct 31 2008, 13:55:41) 
[Java HotSpot(TM) Client VM (Sun Microsystems Inc.)] on java1.5.0_16
>>> import sys
>>> sys.path.append("mx-0.106.0.jar")
>>> from import SMILESReader
>>> from import MassCalculator
>>> c=MassCalculator()
>>> c.findAveragedMass("C12C3C4C1C5C4C3C25"))

As you can see, using this new calculator is quite easy. One minor detail is the "1" at the end of result, which appears to be a Java floating point issue unrelated to the system of atomic masses.

MX uses an XML file compiled from the definitive IUPAC publication on atomic masses. The source of each measurement is cited, complete with uncertainty. More information on this file and its uses is available here.