the aim of this account is to provide an overview of our current research activities on the design and modification of superparamagnetic nanomaterials for application in the field of magnetic separation and catalysis. first, an introduction of magnetism and magnetic separation is done. then, the synthetic strategies that have been developed for generating superparamagnetic nanoparticles spherically coated by silica and other oxides, with a focus on well characterized systems prepared by methods that generate samples of high quality and easy to scale-up, are discussed. a set of magnetically recoverable catalysts prepared in our research group by the unique combination of superparamagnetic supports and metal nanoparticles is highlighted. this account is concluded with personal remarks and perspectives on this research field.