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A general database is a collection of information arranged into a table format, containing information about a particular facet of a system or organization. For example, one common function a database is likely to serve is as an employee records database, which contains the name, birthdate, and other salient information about the people working for the company. A materials database is a specific type of database used to host information regarding the development, design, experimental results, and standards utilized for industry materials.
For example, a materials database for a chemical supply company might contain information about the company's latest product development, the formulas they have already tried and tested, and the general standards and rule sets for designing new chemical compounds. Placing all of this information on a database allows everyone within the organization to share a common perspective, enforcing consistency in standards throughout the organization.
Additionally, the frequent updates to a materials database provides near-instantaneous feedback throughout the various divisions of the company. Without a working materials database, if division X completes work on a specific project, division Y will not know about it until much later. With a working materials database, division Y will have that information the moment they access and check the latest experimental results records in the system. This streamlines communication throughout the company, reducing redundancy in testing and eliminating waste during the development cycle.
Previously, a materials database might have been stored upon and limited to a company's in-house network. This reduced the efficacy of databases for organizations with multiple headquarters around the world, as each individual location for research would operate autonomously from the others. With the advent of the Internet as a feasible storage location for sensitive information, modern materials databases can be either stored or accessed online. This links together all of the different locations of an organization, helping to further reduce costs.
Information in a materials database is accessed through the standard Structured Query Language (SQL). SQL is a programming language used to extract specific information from the database based on user criteria. For example, using SQL, a materials database user can easily request the results of all tests on "Project X" between any range of dates. This information is displayed onscreen in a table format, listing all records in the database that match the desired criteria.