Natural vs. Artificial Magnets: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Definition of Magnets
  • 0:31 Natural Magnets
  • 1:32 Artificial Magnets
  • 2:20 Examples of Artificial Magnets
  • 3:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the differences between natural and artificial magnets. You'll learn that natural magnets are always weaker than artificial magnets.

Definition of Magnets

Do you have magnets on your refrigerator door? If you do, do you notice how those magnets stick to metals, such as iron? However, if you have a stainless steel fridge, have you noticed that your magnets don't stick? That's because stainless steel, made with nickel, is not magnetic.

By definition, a magnet attracts iron and will align itself so that its north point will point towards the Earth's north pole. Let's learn about natural magnets and artificial magnets.

Natural Magnets

A natural magnet is a magnet that occurs naturally in nature. All natural magnets are permanent magnets, meaning they will never lose their magnetic power.

Natural magnets can be found in sandy deposits in various parts of the world. The strongest natural magnet material is lodestone, also called magnetite. This mineral is black in color and very shiny when polished. The lodestone was actually used in the very first compasses ever made. Because natural magnets are permanent magnets, if lodestone is allowed to freely spin, its north pole will always align itself with the Earth's geographic north pole.

Today, if you visit a gem and mineral show, you'll find lodestones on display. Play with them and you'll see just how strong their magnetism is. A single lodestone can lift a string of a dozen or so other lodestones into the air.

There are other minerals that are natural magnets, but they are weak magnets so they won't be able to lift too much metal. Some of these are pyrrhotite, ferrite, and columbite.

Artificial Magnets

When magnets are made by people, they are called artificial magnets. It's these magnets that are on your refrigerator door, and they have extra-strong magnetic power, like those really tiny super-strong magnets that you can buy from toy or science stores.

There are two types of artificial magnets: temporary and permanent. Temporary magnets are magnets that aren't always magnetic, but their magnetism can be turned on at will. Permanent magnets are those magnets whose magnetic strength never fades.

Permanent artificial magnets can also be made to suit the application they're for. They can be made so that the magnet's north and south poles are located at specific spots. For example, a ring magnet can be made so that the north pole is on the outside and the south pole is on the inside, or with the north pole on the inside and the south pole on the outside.

Examples of Artificial Magnets

There are many different artificial magnets that have been made. Two examples of temporary artificial magnets include the electromagnet and the paper clip.

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