Magnets used to show chimpanzee problem solving intelligence

When Dr. Riley, a psychology researcher from the University of London contacted us about her most unique application, we were not only eager to help but also excited, our team love animals!


Our team was presented with an interesting application where chimpanzees would use two magnets to pull a block of wood inside a metal tube and thereby pull an out of reach piece of food to an opening in the pipe. – It was to study chimpanzee intelligence and use of different tools.

Our customer designed and built an ‘L’ shaped metal tube with a clear Perspex front. Within the puzzle a magnet was embedded in a block of wood. A food reward was placed to the left of the magnet, if the chimpanzees were to get the food reward, they would have to join a north magnet from their tool-kit to the south magnet through the Perspex and pull both magnets to the left which would in turn push the food to an access hole where the chimpanzees could collect the food.

The front of the pipe is made from a 5mm Perspex and we would need to ensure the magnets could pull the block through this 5mm Perspex.

There was more; the magnet needed to be attached to a padlock and chain or screwed into a wooden block so the windows of the puzzle remained intact and the public would not get any nasty surprises from flying magnets!

Our engineers were quick to find a solution in our part F999N-N52. This magnet is 25mm in diameter and 20mm thick and it has a handy 6mm counter-bored hole for fixing.

Why did our engineers choose this particular magnet? – The thickness of this magnet allows the magnetism to reach through the 5mm Perspex and still have enough magnetic performance to pull the attracting magnet in the wooden block inside the puzzle. The magnet also boasts a 6mm counter-bored hole which is perfect for our customer to fix the magnet to a wooden block or rope for safety.

These magnets are strong and do require careful thought before purchase. Even though these magnets will fit in the palm of your hand, they can pull a steel weight of 26 kilograms. We often get calls from customers that simply can’t believe the performance such small magnets can give!

Magnet Expert Ltd must give a big thank you for Dr Lisa Riley for the contribution of her photographs and research notes.

Comments are closed here.