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How are magnets made?

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Quick Answer

A magnet is made of any of a group of metals called ferromagnetic metals. Ferromagnetic metals contain many small magnetic fields called domains. In their natural state, the magnetic fields of these domains point in different directions. To create a magnet, the magnetic fields must align in the same direction.

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Full Answer

Magnets are either temporary or permanent. The easiest type of magnet to make is a temporary magnet. Simply subjecting a ferromagnetic material to the magnetic field of an existing magnet causes its domains to align temporarily, producing a magnetic field that lasts for a short time after the original magnet is removed. Creating a permanent magnet involves heating ferromagnetic metal to a specific temperature, called the Curie temperature, causing the magnetic fields of individual domains to point in the same direction. Heating past the Curie temperature causes the material to become a permanent magnet.

An electromagnet uses electricity to temporarily magnetize a ferromagnetic metal, typically iron. Wrapping copper wire around an iron nail and connecting the wire to a battery creates a flow of electricity that aligns the magnetic domains.

A superconducting magnet, of use in MRI machines, utilizes metal alloys that conduct electricity well at extremely low temperatures. Cooling a loop of niobium and adding an electrical charge creates a very stable magnetic field.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is a magnet made of?

    A:

    Magnets are made from magnetic materials, or metals that are attracted to a magnet and can be magnetized. They come from metal elements or alloys. Magnets are capable of producing magnetic fields, and they attract metals such as cobalt, iron and nickel.

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  • Q:

    How can an iron nail be made into a magnet?

    A:

    An iron nail can be made into a magnet by wrapping it with insulated copper wire and letting low-voltage direct current run through the coil. The iron nail will become a temporary magnet.

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    How long do magnets last?

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    The magnetic field of a permanent magnetic material destabilizes on its own over a long period of time, generally on the order of hundreds of years. Magnets, however, weaken more quickly when they are exposed to physical shocks, other magnetic or electrical fields, and high temperatures.

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    What are magnets used for?

    A:

    Magnets are used in computer data storage, compasses, doorbells and alarm systems, microphones and speakers, motors, electrical generators and electrical transformers. They are also used to levitate objects, including trains that operate via magnetic propulsion. Naturally occurring magnetism protects the Earth from cosmic radiation.

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