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Magnets & Magnetic Fields For Beginners

Magnets are used all over the world in almost all modern devices from computer hard drives to the latest environmentally friendly cars and transportation. With so much information available on the internet, we have provided a basic introductory guide to magnets & magnetic fields. A Magnet is a material which produces an invisible magnetic field which can attract ferromagnetic materials. Magnets can also attract or repel other Magnets, all magnets have at least 2 magnetic poles.

What materials can be attracted to a magnet?

Materials containing Iron, (steel contains iron) Cobalt and Nickel are ferromagnetic and are attracted to a magnet. Most other materials such as wood, plastic, aluminium and copper are not attracted to a magnet and are called non-magnetic.

What are Poles?

Every Magnet has at least two magnetic poles, one NORTH and one SOUTH and a magnetic field flows continuously from NORTH to SOUTH. A North pole has the same attracting force as a South pole when attracting Ferromagnetic materials.

Repelling & Attracting

If two bar magnets are pushed together end to end, then they will either attract each other or repel each other depending on which polarities are used (North to South, North to North or South to South) Like Poles repel – Two North poles will repel each other (push each other away). Two South poles will also repel each other. Opposite Poles Attract – A North pole will attract a South pole (jump towards and stick to each other).

Magnetic Fields

A magnetic field flows from North to South and if you place a piece of paper on top of a magnet and sprinkle the fine iron powder on top, the shape of the invisible magnetic fields becomes visible as the fine iron powder clings to them. There are many shapes of magnets and each has a different magnetic field shape.

We have included diagrams and photographs below of the magnetic fields for just a hand full of magnets.

Bar Magnet

Arc Magnet

Mitre Magnet

Circular Disc Magnet