How Are Magnets Made? - Lesson for Kids

Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Tiffany Hightower

Tiffany is a certified elementary school teacher. She has a B.A. in English, education certification and a master's degree in education from Central Michigan University.

Expert Contributor
Elaine Chan

Dr. Chan has a Ph.D. from the U. of California, Berkeley. She has done research and teaching in mathematics and physical sciences.

Magnets are fun, useful and amazing tools that are used in a variety of ways. Have you ever wondered how magnets are made? Continue reading to discover fascinating facts about how magnets are made. Updated: 11/04/2020

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.

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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.

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Additional Activities

Making Magnets At Home

In these activities, you will be making a magnet and an electromagnet at home.

Make a Magnet

Required equipment:

  • 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

Required equipment:

  • 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?

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