Molecules is an application for the iPhone, iPod touch, and now iPad that allows you to view three-dimensional renderings of molecules and manipulate them using your fingers. You can rotate the molecules by moving your finger across the display, zoom in or out by using two-finger pinch gestures, or pan the molecule by moving two fingers across the screen at once. The combination of the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad's unique multitouch input system and the built-in OpenGL ES 3-D graphics capabilities enable you to feel like you are manipulating the molecules themselves with your fingers.

New molecules can be downloaded from the RCSB Protein Data Bank (, an international repository of biological molecules and their 3-D structures, or NCBI's PubChem, a public database of compounds. Molecules can be downloaded directly to your handheld device and stored there for later viewing. In addition, you can view detailed information about the molecule, such as the researchers who established its structure, its amino acid or nucleotide sequence, and its full name. Multiple visualization modes can be switched to by double-tapping on the 3-D rendering.

Custom molecule structures can also be downloaded to the device from any publicly available web server. The location of these structures can either be manually specified in the application, or custom URLs, such as molecules:// , can be clicked on within Safari or Mail on the device. This will launch Molecules and have it start downloading the file at that address.

On iPad, molecular structures can now be dragged into the application directly using iTunes by going to the Applications tab, scrolling down to the bottom, and clicking on the Molecules icon.

Molecules is free and its source code is available under the BSD license. I feel that this can be a useful scientific and educational tool, and welcome any feedback you can provide to make it an even better program. Please stop by the forums to ask questions, make comments, or even contribute code.

Molecules uses one of the high-quality icons from the set published by Glyphish.

Related posts


iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 4.0 or greater
Molecules icon

Download from the iTunes App Store

Price: Free

Version: 2.1

Latest source code release: 3/30/2012
Download here


A caffeine model on the iPhone
A DNA ball-and-stick model on the iPhone
An molecular neon pump on the iPhone
Caffeine on the iPad
DNA ball-and-stick on the iPad
Insulin on the iPad
Molecule neon pump on the iPad
Searching for molecules on the iPhone
tRNA on the iPad
tRNA on the iPhone