Electromagnet

Learn to manipulate magnetic forces!

Difficulty:
Danger:
Duration:
15 minutes
Electromagnet

Safety

  • Carefully review the general safety advice in the instruction book before starting the experiment.
  • Read the "Magnets and electricity" and "Working with batteries" sections of the safety manual carefully before proceeding.
  • Do not let children under 8 years old handle small magnets.
  • Disassemble the setup after the experiment.

Step-by-step instructions

Let’s see how a magnet interacts with metal objects (paper clips and a wire) and a compass!

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The batteries make electrons run through the wire from the “–” to the “+” terminal, thus creating electric current. The compass, in turn, helps us detect whether a current-carrying wire features magnetic properties.

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Coiling the current-carrying wire into a spiral will strengthen its magnetic properties. Close the electrical circuit to allow current to flow through the spiral wire.

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The button switch allows us to control the electric current. Now, let’s see how the coiled current-carrying wire interacts with paper clips and the compass!

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Disposal

  • Dispose of used batteries in accordance with local regulations.
  • Dispose of solid waste together with household garbage.

Scientific description

A magnet  is an object that creates an invisible magnetic field  around itself. A magnetic field is an area where a magnet spreads its influence: attracting or repelling other magnets and pulling on certain metals. This interaction  between magnets and other materials decreases  with distance.

Magnetic fields are invisible, but can be detected with a device called a compass . Compasses react to the external magnetic fields of nearby magnets and align accordingly. In the absence of such, however, compasses “feel” the Earth’s  magnetic field, which is pretty weak but still detectable. That’s why a compass usually points North!

In this experiment, you used the metallic disc, which is a permanent magnet—it always features magnetic properties. A magnet with a magnetic field originating from electric energy is a different story. This is called an electromagnet.

A good example would be a metal wire  connected to a battery, which forces  electrons to flow through the wire from the “–” pole to the “+” pole of the battery . This electric current creates a magnetic field  around the wire , which in our case is relatively weak. However, twist the wire into a spiral—and the fields of each curve accrue into one stronger magnet.

That’s interesting!

Metals that magnets can pull on are called ferromagnetic materials. What is so special about them? They become magnets themselves when subjected to a strong enough external magnetic field. See for yourself! When a paper clip is pulled on by a magnet, it can then pull on other paper clips.

Where are ferromagnetic materials utilized? They are mostly used to enhance the magnetic field of electromagnets. As mentioned above, electromagnets are magnets with a magnetic field that originates from electricity flowing through it. A simple example would be a wire coiled around a rod made of solid ferromagnetic material. Here, the magnetic field of the electromagnet turns the ferromagnetic rod into a magnet with its own magnetic field. Both fields add up to create a stronger resulting magnetic field.