In the early days, the Greeks observed that the naturally occurring ‘lodestone’ attracted iron pieces. From that day onwards began the journey into the discovery of magnets.
Now we have all kinds of magnets, like bar magnets, horseshoe magnets, disk magnets etc., all being used for a variety of applications.
How do all these Magnets Work? Let’s find out!
First, let’s understand what makes magnets magnetic.
What makes Magnets Magnetic?
All matter is made up of atoms. Atoms in turn, are made up of protons, electrons and neutrons. In most materials almost all the electrons form pairs, with the magnetism from the two paired electrons exactly cancelling. This makes such materials non-magnetic.
What is Magnetic Field?
Magnets have what is known as a half shell of electrons; in other words, they are not paired up like other materials. These electrons then line up, and move around the protons, which creates a magnetic field.
Thus, these atoms themselves are tiny microscopic magnets.
Now, atoms align themselves in groups called crystals. A collection of magnetic crystals forms a domain of magnetic fields, which are then all aligned in the same magnetic direction. The more domains that point in the same direction, the greater the magnetic force will be.
Now that we know how magnets are formed, let’s find out how magnets work.
Magnets : How do they work?
When a ferromagnetic material (a material that is attracted to magnets) comes into contact with the magnet, the domains in this material align themselves with the domains in the magnet. Thus, the atoms in these materials, like steel, for example, temporarily tend to behave like tiny little bar magnets.
All magnets have south and north poles. The south pole of a magnet is naturally attracted to the north pole of another magnet. This attraction is what causes the piece of steel to stick to the magnet.
Non-ferromagnetic materials (materials that are not attracted to magnets) do not rearrange into alignment with the magnetic domains and stay in a random formation.
Stainless steel, for example, is not a very good magnetic material, so if you touch your magnet with something made of stainless steel it will probably not stick to it.
Principles of Magnetism
Thus, magnets work on this principle of magnetic fields.
Another point to make a note of is this –
“Like poles repel” and “Opposite poles attract”
The north pole of one magnet will repel the north pole of another magnet, but will attract the south pole of the same magnet.
Fun Fact about Magnets
You can make a magnet by placing a magnetic object in a magnet’s magnetic field for a sufficiently long period of time. The strength of the magnet you make will depend on the strength of the magnet you used in the first place, as well as the duration of exposure.
Can Magnets attract anything?, Let’s find out in our video http://mocomi.com/can-magnets-attract-anything/