Do your results look strange in Helix or Mobius? Are they presented with a base number (between 1 and 10) and an exponent? This is likely because they are presented using scientific notation! Scientific notation is a method used to express very large or very small numbers in a more compact, readable form. In Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), certain environmental impact categories may result in values that span a broad numerical range, and scientific notation is a common format for presenting results. Additionally, it's important to be aware of decimal and thousand separators, as regional differences can affect how these numbers are formatted. This article covers the following questions about scientific notation:

What is scientific notation?

Why is scientific notation used in LCA?

What are the regional differences between decimal and thousand separators?

Feel like you're missing information? This article builds upon the following articles, check them out if you want to learn more:

On interpreting results: How to: Interpret LCA results

# What is scientific notation?

Scientific notation expresses numbers that are too small or too large in a more concise, more readable way. It works by presenting numbers in two parts:

A base number (between 1 and 10)

An exponent (shown after an "E") indicates how many places to move the decimal point.

For **large numbers** with positive exponents, the decimal point moves to the right:

Example: 3.5E4 = 35,000 (3.5 moved 4 places to the right)

For **small numbers** with negative exponents, the decimal point moves to the left:

Example: 3.5E-4 = 0.00035 (3.5 moved 4 places to the left)

Be mindful of the position of negative signs in front of the base number. This indicates the number itself is negative:

Example: -3.5E-4 = -0.00035

Example: -3.5E4 = -35,000

# Why is scientific notation used in LCA?

In LCA, some environmental impact categories produce extremely small or large values. To present these results clearly without risking misinterpretation, scientific notation is often used. This is especially useful when readers are unfamiliar with such wide ranges, allowing for more accurate reporting.

**Pro tip - Scientific notation in LCA:** Make sure your audience understands the format of your values when sharing your LCA results. Linking this article or providing a brief explanation may help prevent confusion or interpretation errors.

## Scientific notation in Mobius

In Ecochain’s Mobius software, you can display results in standard numerical, scientific notation, or percent format. Adjust this in the display settings to match your preference or the needs of your report audience (Figure 1).

*Figure 1: Accessing different result views in Mobius. View results in numeric, scientific notation, or percent format. *

**Note - Scientific notation in Helix:** All results in Helix are presented in scientific notation. The format of the results can be changed by downloading results to Excel and changing them there. However, it is possible to adjust the decimal separators in Helix.

# What are the regional differences between decimal and thousand separators?

You might notice numbers written in different formats:

**0,00035**or**35.000**(common in Europe and other regions)**0.00035**or**35,000**(common in the US and UK)

This variation is due to regional differences in how decimals and thousands are separated.

In many European countries: Decimals are marked with a comma and thousands with a period.

In the US and UK: This is reversed! Decimals are marked with a period and thousands with a comma.

## Adjusting separators in Helix

In Helix, you can adjust the decimal and thousand separators based on your regional preferences by navigating to **Settings > Regional Preferences **(Figure 2).

*Figure 2: Adjusting decimal separators in Helix. *

# Next steps

Understanding scientific notation and regional formatting differences is necessary for interpreting LCA results accurately. These small details can significantly impact how others understand your data. You can use the settings in Mobius and Helix to tailor the format to your needs and ensure it's clear when sharing your results.