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Cinder – Crystallographic Tinder

Protein crystals are an essential part of X-ray crystallography, the method CSIRO uses to figure out the molecular structure of proteins. CSIRO is interested in the molecular structure of proteins because it is essential for our biotechnology research.

In order to find a protein crystal, CSIRO must set up thousands of experiments. Less than 1% of the experiments have crystals, and to find them we need to look at every experiment. CSIRO developed Cinder so we can crowd source our search for experiments with crystals.

Cinder is an easy app to use, swipe right for crystals. Your classification of each experiment is pushed back to CSIRO so we can use it to develop search algorithms in our scientific software.

Now on Google Play & iOS App Store

Cinder is an app which helps CSIRO to find protein crystals.

What is it? Cinder is a crystal-image classification tool developed for mobile platforms. It is used to score crystallization experiment images based on four categories: Clear, Precipitate, Other and Crystal.

Why develop it? A few reasons, all linked to speeding up the protein crystallization process. The ultimate goal is to have computer software classify images so that we no longer need to trawl through 1000s of images, and for that we need an easy way to let many people score a training set (enter Cinder). With enough development support we will release a client specific version of Cinder, an alternative to desktop applications. This will make it easier for more people to score more often, and we can capture an ever growing data set.

How does it work? Conceptually it has some similarity to the mobile dating application Tinder, however we needed more granularity than “keep” (a hit) or “discard” (everything else), so included vertical swipes on top of the horizontal. Why? Precipitation and Other events can be helpful to guide an optimisation strategy failing any indication of a crystal. For naive users we’ve got a help tool called Cinder Kinder, which lets you know how good you are at classifying pre-scored images.

How do we get it? From the links above or directly from

Left: The standard screen, waiting for you to score. Centre: Cinder Kinder, our help tool. Right: Zoomed in to see the detail of an experiment (micro-crystal).