Introducing Materials Science: Experimenting with Magnetic Nanomaterials in the Undergraduate Chemistry Laboratory

Annie Regan, John O'Donoghue, Carl Poree, Peter Dunne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Materials science research has expanded significantly in recent years; a multidisciplinary field, home to an ever-growing number of chemists. However, our general chemistry degree courses have not changed to reflect the rise in interest in this topic. In this paper, we propose a laboratory experiment for the undergraduate chemistry practical course, which may serve as a hands-on introduction to this field. The experiment involves the synthesis and characterization of magnetic materials via commonly employed techniques in materials science. Students begin by producing three metal ferrite spinels using a sol–gel combustion synthesis. They must then characterize the differing magnetic properties across their three samples using a magnetic susceptibility balance. In the second part of the experiment, students must create a ferrofluid via coprecipitation, from which they may observe the phenomenon of “spiking” in response to an external magnet. Additional data such as X-ray diffraction (XRD) patterns and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images corresponding to these materials are also provided, and students are tasked with the interpretation of these data in their writeup report. Upon completion, students should gain a new-found understanding of materials science and its fundamental overlap with chemistry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2387-2393
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number6
Early online date8 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2023


  • Upper-Division Undergraduate
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Magnetic Properties
  • Materials Science
  • Synthesis
  • X-ray Crystallography


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