AICS Detailed Help / Guidance Notes


AICS online is the list of chemicals on the non-confidential section of the Australian Inventory of Chemical Substances (AICS) that can be searched via the Internet. This list is updated every fortnight.

To search AICS online requires either a correct chemical name, or a CAS number or a molecular formulae as defined below:

  • CAS number

    The CAS Number is a unique number assigned to a substance when it is entered into the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry database. The general format is XXX-XX-X. The final digit (check digit) is derived from the other digits by a mathematical formula. When you enter a CAS number into the search field, the check digit is automatically checked and an alert will apear if it is incorrect. You should then check your CAS number for accuracy via an indepentent source.

    The CAS number search is the easiest and fastest method to search AICS online. We recommend that you try to find the CAS number first if the chemical name you have is not on AICS. There are several useful Internet sites to help find CAS numbers.


  • Chemical name and associated names
    The second most useful method for searching AICS is by chemical name. Chemicals are listed under the CAS Index or CAS Approved name. However chemicals are known by many names and these may not be listed on AICS. If the chemical name you have is not found on AICS, then we recommend that you try and find other names for the chemical. There are several useful Internet sites to find other chemical names.


  • Molecular formula
    Search by molecular formula is least effective and recommended to be used in combination with chemical name search. Few chemicals on the AICS have molecular formulas.

Guidance in searching by each of these descriptors is provided below under CAS number search, Chemical name search and Molecular formula search.

If you only have a common name, for example, a generic name listed on the label of a cosmetic product, most likely you will not find the chemical on the AICS even if it is listed there.

Some examples of how to do this are provided on the AICS Searching for Beginners page.

There are several Internet sites that are helpful identifying CAS numbers or chemical names:

Search strategies for specific group of chemicals is provided for the following groups of chemicals:


  1. NICNAS does not provide a service to find the CAS information.
    You must do this yourself, or contact CAS Technical

    Service & Support (http://www.cas.org/expertise/index.html).

  2. NICNAS Help with Non-Confidential AICS Search
    If you require assistance in using AICS online database, please contact Costa Conn, AICS Manager, NICNAS on
    (02) 8577 8830. However, following a review of its Cost Recovery arrangements. NICNAS is no longer offering a service to search the public AICS as of 1 July 2012. Therefore, you must conduct the search yourself.

  3. Confidential AICS Search
    If there is no match on the chemical name or CAS number in the public AICS, the chemical may be listed in the confidential section of AICS. This section cannot be searched via the web. For NICNAS to conduct a search of the confidential section of the AICS, requires evidence of the unsuccessful search result of the public AICS and completion of the Declaratory Statement that you have a bona fide intention to manufacture or import the chemical. View a PDF version of the AICS-5C Confidential Search Form (PDF 104kB). This form contains a list of points that must be considered in conducting a valid search of the AICS prior to applying for a search of the confidential AICS.

  4. Maintaining Accuracy of the AICS
    Recently a number of initiatives have been finalised to improve the accuracy of the AICS listings. Notice 3 in the Chemical Gazette of 6 March 2012 advised that the Director intended to remove ions and alloys that were incorrectly listed on the AICS. As no objections were received within the allowed 3 month time frame, the particulars of the alloys containing a particular component have been placed on the record for that component in a separate information section separate from the AICS listing. The alloys have been removed from the AICS as advised in Notice 1 of the Chemical Gazette of 7 August 2012. These alloys can be introduced as their components are on the AICS. Other alloys can only be introduced if their components are also on the AICS or are deemed to be on the AICS (if a naturally occuring chemical).

    The AICS is audited periodically to determine any differences between listings on the AICS itself and those recordsed on the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) Registry database. The results of the latest audit were advised in a Notice in the 7 August 2012 Chemical Gazette. Where CAS has replaced CAS Registry Numbers and names these are now recorded on the AICS and are searchable on the AICS records for the new listing.

  5. Nil Search Results
    If a search of the AICS results in the message "No Results Returned" it may be for reasons other than that the chemical is not listed on the AICS. In this case the web page containing the message now also lists possible reasons why this has occurred and corrective measures that can be taken.

  • CAS Number Search

    The CAS Number is a unique number assigned to a substance when it is entered into the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) REGISTRY database. More information on CAS is available at
    http://www.cas.org; and
    NICNAS Handbook Appendix July 2007 (PDF 604kB).

    Because each CAS number is a unique identifying number, in contrast to chemical or associated names for which there may be multiple names in use for a chemical, searching the AICS using CAS number is the easiest and least ambiguous method of identifying whether chemicals are listed or not.

    The format of CAS number is three blocks of numbers separated by dashes ie. XXX-XX-X. The first block can be between 2 and 6 digits. The second block has only 2 digits and the last block is always a single digit. Any preceding zeros in the first block need to be discarded. For example, the CAS number for formaldehyde is

    If the entered CAS number matches a CAS number listed on AICS exactly, details of the chemical will be displayed on the screen. The result of a search using a CAS number is limited to only a single chemical. If CAS number entered is not the correct format (eg. too few or many numbers), an alert message will be displayed. The CAS number search field will not accept "wild card" searches.

    As an example, to search for formaldehyde, the CAS number (50-00-0 or 50000) can be entered into the search field and the search commenced by hiting Go. If no dashes are included, the system will add them to the last three digits. Below are screenshots of before and after searching for '50000'.

    This screenshot shows the initial search entry screen.

    A screenshot of the results for searching for formaldehyde via the CASRN (50000 or 50-00-0).

    To print the results of the chemical search, click on the printable version. This will open the search result in a window suitable for printing (below).

    To print the results of the chemical search, click on the printable version. This will open the search result in a different window suitable for printing.

    If there are no hits for the CAS number then a negative search screen will appear stating "No results found".

    Chemical Name Search

    Chemicals are listed under 'Chemical Name' with their CAS approved name. Chemicals are more commonly known by names other than their CAS approved name. Only some of these associated names or synonyms are also included on AICS. Both these names can be searched by using the "Chemical Name Search" method.

    In the example above, formaldehyde has six listed associated names on AICS. However, it has several more associated names, such as "Formal" which are not listed on AICS. Therefore, if "Formal" is entered for the search, a negative result will occur even though formaldehyde is listed.

    The search engine for chemical name search has been set up to search for name fragments. A fragment is defined as a word, with a 'space' or 'bracket' or '-' or 'number' separating the next word.

    Please note that the chemical names are in different formats on AICS (eg. extra space, bracket or sequence) and a negative result may occur if the correct format is not used. Given below are two examples for simple chemicals with different name formats:

    1. Methylethyl ketone is listed (for CAS 78-93-3) whereas ethylmethyl ketone and methyl ethyl ketone are not listed, though they represent the same chemical.

    2. Isopropylbenzene is listed (for CAS No. 98-82-8) whereas searching on isopropyl benzene gives no result, though the chemical is the same.

    3. Sodium sulfate (7757-82-6) is more commonly known as sodium sulphate. Sulfate is the CAS approved name format.

    If you do not have the CAS number or correct chemical name, you should ensure that you have sufficient associated names to enable a comprehensive AICS search. Associated chemical names or synonyms can be obtained through Internet sources or other published documents.

    AICS does not list trade names or International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) names and so searching cannot be conducted for these names.

    Chemical names and molecular formula searches can be enhanced by the use of the wildcard"*". This can be used in different search options.

    Search results are limited to 200 hits for any search. If there are more than 200 hits, the search engine returns a request to refine the search. Chemical name searches can be refined using the operator phrases available as drop down menus.

    There are several options for Chemical Name Search:

    Operator phrases for Chemical Name Search:

    Options for Chemical Name Search.

    (a)    Contains all words: The search will be conducted on all words entered on the line. The sequence or any preceding characters (including wildcards) are ignored. Wildcard option, "*", can be used at the end of words for search. This is the best option if a chemical name is long and has many components (eg polymers). For example, if 'pentanoic acid' is entered on the search field, the search engine will break the name into two fragments, 'pentanoic' and 'acid' and search for chemical names on AICS which contain both the fragments. There are about 82 records on AICS which contain the fragments.

    all words

    (b)    Contains any words: This will search for any word entered on the line. This option has to be used in combination with other options as it may lead to large number of hits. For example, if 'pentanoic acid' is searched using this option, too many hits occur. This is because the search engine is trying to find if either of the fragments 'pentanoic' or 'acid' are listed in the chemical names on AICS.

    any words

    (c)    Contains phrase: This will search for any phrase entered. The sequence of phrase items is maintained during the search. This option needs to be used with caution as it may result in negative result if the sequence on AICS does not match the search phrase.

    For example, if 'pentanoic acid' is searched using contains phrase option, 82 records are returned, however, if the sequence is reversed and 'acid pentanoic' is searched for no results are returned.



        Starts with: This will search for any chemical name starting with the name entered. Here wild card,"*", can be used at either side of the word for searches. This is the best option when using wildcard.

    For example, if 'pentanoic acid' is searched, all chemicals where pentanoic acid is the first part of the name are displayed.


    (e)     Equals: This search matches the exact chemical name. In this option, spaces, brackets, commas, dashes are important and unless these are entered correctly the chemical will not be matched. Wildcard cannot be used with this option. It is useful when searching for individual chemical names (eg benzene, water etc).

    (f)     Excludes phrase: This option will exclude any phrase/word entered. It should be noted that sequence is important in any phrase option. If you want to exclude only individual words, use this option on separate lines. This is useful to narrow down search results.

    For example, to narrow down the search results for 'pentanoic acid' from 82 (using 'contains all words') option to manageable numbers, excludes phrase may be used. First identify the words/phrases in the list which you do not want in your results by scrolling down. Once these are identified, type the words on different search lines and use the option 'excludes phrase'.

    Results when exclude terms are on the same line:


    Results when exclude terms are on different search lines:


    Any combination of the above operator phrases can be used to do the search.

    Molecular Formula Search

    Molecular formula information on AICS is limited to only a few chemicals. We recommend you use this option to assist only in narrowing chemical name searches.

    The search operators phrases are:

    Contains: This will search for phrase entered on the line. The sequence of phrase is maintained during the search. This option needs to be used with caution as it may result in negative result if the sequence on AICS does not match the search phrase. Wildcard, "*", can be used in the search if the sequence is not known.

    Starts with: This will search for molecular formula starting with the phrase entered. Wildcard, "*", is useful to get more hits and can be used in the start or end of phrase.

    Equals: This search matches the exact molecular formula. This option is useful when molecular formula is known. Wildcard is not useful in this option.

    Excludes phrase: This option will exclude any phrase/word entered.


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