Chemistry Magnetic Models

Methods of teaching organic chemistry may have changed over the years but the basic concepts are still the same.  Molecular models have been used for decades in teaching chemistry & biochemistry to help visualize the relationship of different atoms in chemical structures.

Physical models engaging not only ones visual sense but strong Nd magnet bonds can further engage ones tactile sense. Some of the most important concepts of organic chemistry can be taught with greater speed & clarity than with standard models & computers and are shown below.


The concept of handedness or chirality is a fundamental characteristic of many important molecules, especially biological ones. The amino acids that make up the proteins in our body, the sugars such as glucose, & the helix of DNA all exhibit handedness. In fact, the consequences of wrong-handedness can be disastrous. Thalidomide is a key example. One version of it functions as a sedative while the other causes deformities during fetal development. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is another. One version passes through you with no effect whereas the other interferes with neurotransmitters & causes hallucinations.

AtoMag chirality molecular models

A pair of substituted methane models to demonstrate chirality.

By simply changing 3 atoms on our magnetic methane model this simple but critical feature of many organic molecules can be demonstrated elegantly & quickly.

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Chair Boat Flips

The chair boat flip is one example of the importance of steric hindrance.  In other words, the repulsion caused by the crowding of side groups of atoms within a molecule, in turn, causes the energy of the system to become higher; i.e. the chair conformation has a lower energy state than the boat conformation of the ring.

Cyclohexane Chair, Skew-Boat, Boat Conformations

Magnetic cyclohexane models to demonstrate chair, skew-Boat, boat conformations

The molecule most commonly used to demonstrate this is cyclohexane but it is equally applicable to glucose. The beauty of the magnetic model is that you can actually feel the resistance to change from the chair to boat conformation & as it accurately mimics what happens when an energy source such as light or heat impinges on the molecule.


Alkanes are the most basic of organic compounds & best demonstrate carbon’s ability to form long chains especially as it relates to biological molecules. In addition to long chains, many of these carbon compounds also show extensive branching. Learning how to describe these accurately requires a good understanding of IUPAC nomenclature rules.

Organic Chemistry Teaching-Naming Branched Chain Aklanes

Branched-chain alkane nomenclature made easy. Magnetic bonds are also extra strong. Hold one atom and dangle at least 16 more below it.

The versatility of magnetic molecular models of alkanes readily lends itself to learning IUPAC naming conventions. All you need do is simply attach or detach a carbon to the end or the side of the chain & you have a new molecule ready to be named.

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Arene Substitution

This is a fairly basic application of magnetic molecular models. The key advantage is that you can demonstrate the difference between the ortho/meta/para with greater ease than with a standard model.

Convert from ortho to meta to para conformation in the blink of an eye.

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Surface Chemistry

In addition to organic chemistry, magnetic molecular models can illustrate some of the principles of solid-state chemistry, in particular, surface chemistry which can involve metal coating techniques like chemical vapour deposition or the adsorption of water to salt crystals.

NaCl-H2O magnetic model for surface chemistry

Vapor Deposition “Roulette”

By mounting atoms representing sodium, chlorine, oxygen & hydrogen with properly oriented north & south poles, one can demonstrate this very graphically.

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Other Compounds

Magnetic molecular models are especially useful with biological molecules. The enantiomers of glucose lend themselves especially well to this as do the different types of disaccharide bonds (1-4 & 1-6, etc.). Similarly, the many types of saturated & unsaturated cis & trans fatty acids can be quickly converted from one to the other.

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