What Are Magnets?
What can move metal objects and even make them dangle in the air without touching them? Magnets! You've probably had fun moving paper clips or nails around with a magnet and were excited because it seemed like magic, but there's actually a scientific explanation for how this works.
Magnets are materials that can attract or pull objects towards them. Lodestone is a type of rock that is a natural magnet on Earth. When you put it in a compass, lodestone naturally makes the compass point north and south because of the earth's magnetic field, or invisible force that pulls magnetic objects on the Earth. If you rub lodestone on other metals, like iron or steel, it can transfer its magnetism (or magnetic power) to those metals.
How Are Magnets Made?
Long ago, people dug up lodestone and used it as a natural magnet. If they needed to create other kinds of magnets, they'd just rub it on some of those other metals. This is a simpler way to make magnets that we can still use, but we've also developed a lot of other magnet-making strategies. Let's take a closer look at the more complex way that magnets are made today.
Today, we can use factories to make large amounts of magnets. Different kinds of magnets are made with different materials and through different processes.
One method is to make a magnet out of a mixture of different types of metal. The metal is heated and melted, then placed in a cast, or container that's used to make a shape. The metal cools in the cast. Then magnetism is added to it, usually with a powerful electromagnet that's been magnetized by an electrical current. The magnet can also be magnetized by being placed in a magnetizer, which has a powerful magnetic field.
Another way magnets are made in factories is more complex and involves turning metals into powder in the magnet-making process. Different metals, including iron, boron, and neodymium, are heated at extremely high temperatures to change them from a solid to a liquid. Then they're mixed together; when the liquid cools, it becomes a solid again. After that, the solid metal mixture is broken up into smaller pieces, and then ground up to make a metal powder. The powder is then placed into a container in the shape that the magnet will become, and powerful forces are used to force the powder to stick together to form its shape.
After that, the shaped powder is then heated to make the metal hard and solid, and then the metal is cooled down again. The metal goes through one more heating and cooling process, and is smoothed out to make the final, finished shape of the magnet. The last step is to turn the metal into a magnet. To do this, an extremely powerful electromagnet, transfers its magnetic power to the shaped metal, which causes the metal to become a magnet as well. This is how many magnets are made in factories.
Although it's more complex, this process of making magnets with powdered metal is the most commonly used method because it creates the highest performing magnets with permanent magnetism.
Magnets are objects that can pull, or attract, other materials like metals. They were simpler to make long ago, when people simply found lodestones, which are natural magnets. Today, magnets are made in complex ways in factories. One way is to gather different metals together, heat and melt them, shape the metal in a cast, a container used to shape melted materials, and wait for it to become solid, then add magnetism. The other way is to turn a mixture of metals into a powder, melt the powder to form a liquid metal mixture, shape the metal mixture into a solid, and add magnetism to it.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Making Magnets At Home
In these activities, you will be making a magnet and an electromagnet at home.
Make a Magnet
- Paper clips
- An existing magnet
Rub the paper clip against the magnet many many times. Always rub in the same direction. Test to see if the paper clip is magnetized by trying to pick up other paper clips. If it is not magnetized yet, keep rubbing. The paper clip will become temporarily magnetized; it will lose it over time. Magnetize another paper clip and see how it interacts with the first paper clip. Do the paper clips have preferred directions with respect to each other?
Make an Electromagnet
- Tape (any kind)
- 9-volt battery and a battery with a higher/lower current output
- Nail (any length)
- Wire (at least 3-4 times longer than the length of the nail)
Wrap a nail with a wire. The wire should be at least 3-4 times longer than the length of the nail. Starting about 7 inches from the end of the wire, wrap the nail . Each wrap should be in the same direction and not overlapping. If the wire is insulated, strip the ends. Attach the ends of the wire to the opposite ends of the battery using tape. See if the nail will pick up paper clips. The more wire that is wrapped or the tighter the winding, the stronger the magnet will be. Try to change the winding and see if this is true. Swap the battery out for one with a higher/lower current output. The magnet with the higher current should be stronger than the one made with lower current. Is this true?
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack