What Substances Will Disrupt Electromagnets?

Updated April 17, 2017

Materials that naturally produce a magnetic field are called magnets. A magnetic field is an invisible force that attracts or repels other ferromagnetic materials, such as iron. An electromagnet is made from a coil of metal wire that, when electricity is applied, produces a magnetic field. Often, the coil of metal wire is wrapped around a ferromagnetic material to enhance the magnetism. When the electric current is disabled, the strong magnetic field is stopped. However, there are certain substances that can naturally disrupt an electromagnet.

Faraday's Law of Magnetic Induction

Faraday's Law of Magnetic Induction characterises the phenomenon that affects a material’s electrons when in the presence of a natural magnetic field. An external or electromagnetic field affects the electrons differently. This reaction depends on factors such as atomic and molecular structures and the strength of the magnetic field being applied. Electron orbital motions and electron spins are highly impacted by electromagnetic fields. Electrons usually exist as pairs that spin in opposite directions to cancel their net magnetic fields with regard to each other. Some materials have unpaired electrons that react differently to electromagnetic fields.

Diamagnetic Materials

Diamagnetic materials disrupt the normal effect to magnetic fields. These materials have a negative susceptibility to electromagnetic fields in that they are repelled by that field and, when the electromagnetic field is disabled, do not maintain a magnetic state. Diamagnetic materials have paired electrons that do not produce a fixed net magnetic state per atom. The diamagnetic properties are caused by the realignment of the electron orbit. This realignment is a direct effect of an electromagnet. Materials such as gold, silver and copper are diamagnetic, as are most other elements in the periodic table.

Paramagnetic Materials

Paramagnetic materials possess a small but positive susceptibility to disrupt a magnetic field. Different from diamagnetic materials, paramagnetic materials are somewhat attracted to an electromagnetic field, and, when the electromagnetic field is disabled, these materials do maintain a magnetic state. This effect is caused by the presence of electrons without pairs and a similar effect of the realignment of electron orbits. Paramagnetic materials include some elements such as tantalum, molybdenum, magnesium and lithium.

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About the Author

Brian Baer has been writing since 1982. His work has appeared on Web sites such as eHow, where he specializes in technology, management and business topics. Baer has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama, Huntsville.