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How Magnets Are Made

Updated February 21, 2017

Magnets are pieces of metals containing iron, cobalt, nickel or steel which have all of their molecules aligned in the same direction. Each molecule has a north and a south pole which when aligned with each other to create a magnet will also align to the magnetic field of the Earth, allowing magnets to be used as compasses. There are two types of magnets: permanent and electromagnets. The only difference is that electromagnets require electricity to be flowing through the metal in order to be attractive.

What Are Magnets and Magnetic Fields

Magnets are pieces of metals containing iron, cobalt, nickel or steel which have all of their molecules aligned in the same direction. Each molecule has a north and a south pole which when aligned with each other to create a magnet will also align to the magnetic field of the Earth, allowing magnets to be used as compasses. There are two types of magnets: permanent and electromagnets. The only difference is that electromagnets require electricity to be flowing through the metal in order to be attractive.

Most Common Way to Make a Permanent Magnet

Magnets can be made by exposing a piece of metal to a magnetic field. This can be done by running a magnet along the length of the metal. The molecules inside the metal rearrange themselves so that they line up in a north-south pattern. Once this happens, the metal is polarised and magnetised as a permanent magnet. It willl not lose its magnetic field over time.

Another Way to Make Permanent Magnets

Metal can also be polarised and turned into a magnet by heating the iron, cobalt or nickel while beating it along its length with steel. This will line the molecules in the same manner that running a magnet along it would.

How Electromagnets Are Made

Electromagnets only have a charge when electric charge is passed through a metal wire. Electrifying a wire formed into coils or loops will create a magnetic field within the loops. This can be seen in the image of the Faraday electromagnet. Increasing the electric charge or inserting a piece of iron, cobalt or nickel through the loops of wire will make the electromagnet stronger, but these only work as long as the current is on.

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