Visualization of Molecular Structures Using Augmented Reality

  • Domhnall OShaughnessyEmail author
Part of the Educational Media and Technology Yearbook book series (EMTY, volume 42)


A thorough appreciation of the three-dimensional arrangement of atoms in molecules is crucial for new students of chemistry and critical to students continuing their studies in chemistry. We discuss current use of molecular models in education and investigate a variety of techniques used over the years to introduce students to atomic orbitals. This chapter examines a technique for the production of augmented reality models for use in lower level chemistry classes. This allows for methods to produce many different models that can be used in lectures without major cost incurred. The method allows for scaling up easily between large classes, multiple sections, and over many years. How this technique can be used in other chemistry classes and in other disciplines will also be discussed.


Augmented reality Molecular modeling Chemistry education 


  1. Birk, J. P., & Foster, J. (1989). Molecular models for the do-it-yourselfer. Journal of Chemical Education, 66(12), 1015. Scholar
  2. Cai, S., Wang, X., & Chiang, F. (2014). A case study of augmented reality simulation system application in a chemistry course. Computers in Human Behavior, 37, 31–40. Scholar
  3. Desseyn, H. O., Herman, M. A., & Mullens, J. (1985). Molecular geometry. Journal of Chemical Education, 62(3), 220. Scholar
  4. Donaghy, K. J., & Saxton, K. J. (2012). Connecting geometry and chemistry: A three-step approach to three-dimensional thinking. Journal of Chemical Education, 89(7), 917–920. Scholar
  5. Fowles, G. W. (1955). Orbital models. Journal of Chemical Education, 32(5), 260. Scholar
  6. Ghaffari, S. (2006). A laboratory experiment using molecular models for an introductory chemistry class. Journal of Chemical Education, 83(8), 1182. Scholar
  7. Griffith, K. M., Cataldo, R. D., & Fogarty, K. H. (2016). Do-it-yourself: 3D models of hydrogenic orbitals through 3D printing. Journal of Chemical Education, 93(9), 1586–1590. Scholar
  8. Hageman, J. H. (2010). Use of molecular models for active learning in biochemistry lecture courses. Journal of Chemical Education, 87(3), 291–293. Scholar
  9. Hanwell, M. D., Curtis, D. E., Lonie, D. C., Vandermeersch, T., Zurek, E., & Hutchison, G. R. (2012). Avogadro: An advanced semantic chemical editor, visualization, and analysis platform. Journal of Cheminformatics, 4(1), 17. Scholar
  10. Harle, M., & Towns, M. (2011). A review of spatial ability literature, its connection to chemistry, and implications for instruction. Journal of Chemical Education, 88(3), 351–360. Scholar
  11. Hoogenboom, B. E. (1962). Three-dimensional models of atomic orbitals. Journal of Chemical Education, 39(1), 40. Scholar
  12. Lambert, F. L. (1957). Atomic and molecular orbital models. Journal of Chemical Education, 34(5), 217. Scholar
  13. Larson, G. O. (1964). Atomic and molecular models made from vinyl covered wire. Journal of Chemical Education, 41(4), 219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Martins, G. (1964). Atomic orbital molecular models. Journal of Chemical Education, 41(12), 658. Scholar
  15. Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., Kwok, O., Cifuentes, L., & Davis, T. J. (2012). The learner characteristics, features of desktop 3D virtual reality environments, and college chemistry instruction: A structural equation modeling analysis. Computers & Education, 59(2), 551–568. Scholar
  16. Minne, N. (1929). Molecular models in organic chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 6(11), 1984. Scholar
  17. Mohamed-Salah, B., & Alain, D. (2016). To what degree does handling concrete molecular models promote the ability to translate and coordinate between 2D and 3D molecular structure representations? A case study with Algerian students. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 17(4), 862–877. Scholar
  18. Robertson, M. J., & Jorgensen, W. L. (2015). Illustrating concepts in physical organic chemistry with 3D printed orbitals. Journal of Chemical Education, 92(12), 2113–2116. Scholar
  19. Stieff, M., Ryu, M., Dixon, B., & Hegarty, M. (2012). The role of spatial ability and strategy preference for spatial problem solving in organic chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 89(7), 854–859. Scholar
  20. Stull, A. T., Barrett, T., & Hegarty, M. (2013). Usability of concrete and virtual models in chemistry instruction. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(6), 2546–2556.Google Scholar
  21. Stull, A. T., Gainer, M., Padalkar, S., & Hegarty, M. (2016). Promoting representational competence with molecular models in organic chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 93(6), 994–1001. Scholar
  22. Teixeira, J. (2017). Molecular physical chemistry: A computer-based approach using Mathematica and Gaussian. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tuckey, H., Selvaratnam, M., & Bradley, J. (1991). Identification and rectification of student difficulties concerning three-dimensional structures, rotation, and reflection. Journal of Chemical Education, 68(6), 460. Scholar
  24. Vögtle, F., & Goldschmitt, E. (1974). Dynamic stereochemistry of the degenerate DiazaCope rearrangement. Angewandte Chemie International Edition in English, 13(7), 480–482.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryShenandoah UniversityWinchesterUSA

Personalised recommendations