AtoMag Functional Groups

Magnetic Molecular Models:
Alkanes & Functional Groups 101.

Molecular models are an essential tool for learning organic chemistry. The molecules used to teach these concepts are fairly simple but can be time consuming to build. Especially if you have to do it repeatedly. Indigo AtoMag™ magnetic molecular models are an inexpensive way to save precious time.

Naming Alkanes Made Easy

Learning IUPAC nomenclature is an important part of organic chemistry and naming alkanes is invariably the place to start. However, building molecules from methane to hexane and all the isomers in between is time consuming. Indigo AtoMag™ magnetic molecular models let you build these structures in seconds rather than minutes.

Teaching a class or running a tutorial? Time is money and these models will pay for themselves the first time you use them.

The Best Cyclohexane Model

The naming alkanes video ends with cyclohexane and chair boat-flips.  The following video shows cyclohexane with added hydrogens and halogens to show the steric hindrance encountered in the boat and twist boat conformations.

The Indigo AtoMag™ magnetic cyclohexane model is a compelling tool because you can actually feel the stablest/lowest energy state of the chair conformation. It takes noticeably more force to move it away from the chair into the boat-twist conformations.

If you are not an organic chemist or do not teach it, think of it as a unique chemist’s fidget toy. Bring one with you to departmental meetings. When they drag on too long, channel your inner Captain Queeg1  & see if you can do a one handed chair boat flip and boat-twists.

6 Important Functional Groups

There are typically 20 different functional groups associated with organic compounds. Among these are 6 that involve oxygen and are considered of prime importance also to biochemistry. These are the alcohols, aldehydes, carboxylic acids, esters, ethers and ketones.

The differences between these are subtle and may be hard to discern for beginners especially if they are using wireframe type molecular models. Indigo AtoMag™ magnetic molecular models let you or the student quickly switch functional groups and add methyl groups to teach IUPAC at the same time.

Branched Chain Alkanes

This is an older video that covers some of the same ground as the alkane video but ends with a 20 carbon long model. This shows the incomparable strength of Indigo AtoMag™ and how well even an elongated model sticks together. You can hold the molecule at one end and swing it around to demonstrate how such molecules move in the real world.


For those who don’t get the reference, see Humphrey Bogart in the Caine Mutiny, 1954. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, jump to time 1:20.

If you do magic, you certainly have the manual dexterity for one-handed manipulation of  our magnetic cyclohexane model. Send us your videos!

About Stephan Logan

VP Sales & Marketing at Indigo Instruments. Previously sold hi tech science instruments to researchers. B.Sc. & M.Sc. from McGill University.

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