What Makes Magnets Stick? Understanding How Magnets Work
Magnets are amazing objects from their use in compasses to their application in modern technology, magnets are an essential part of our daily lives. But have you ever stopped to think about how does a magnet work?
There are two main different types of magnets, permanent magnets, and electromagnets.
A permanent magnet is known as permanent as it generates its own persistent magnetic field, unlike an electromagnet which is made from a coil wire wrapped around a steel core and requires an electric current to generate a magnetic field.
Ferromagnetic materials, the materials all magnets are made up of like iron, cobalt, and nickel have unpaired electrons in their atoms. These electrons are always spinning and create their own weak magnetic field.
A number of these atoms are grouped together to form individual magnetic domains, each with its own north and south poles.
When a magnet is manufactured, an external magnetic field is applied to the raw materials as it is heated and cooled forcing the individual domains to align with the direction of the external magnetic field.
With the majority of these domains, including their north and south poles, now pointing in the same direction, one whole permanent magnet is created with a preferred direction of magnetism.
These magnets produced using this method are known as having an anisotropic alignment, as all of its magnetic domains are aligned in the same direction producing maximum magnetic output.
Permanent magnets will maintain this alignment and their magnetism indefinitely if kept in ideal conditions, for example not being allowed to corrode or exposed to extremely high temperatures.