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How Magnets Are Made

The lodestone, is a natural permanent magnet. Other permanent magnets can be made by subjecting certain materials to a magnetic force. When the force is removed, these materials retain their own magnetic properties. They are made by surrounding certain materials with a coil of wire.

The first thing that was made out of lodestone was a compass. They believe that it occurred in Europe in A.D. 1100 to A.D. 1200. All magnets have two points where the magnetic force is greatest. These two points are known as the poles. For a rectangular or cylindrical bar magnet, these poles would be at opposite ends. One pole is called the north-seeking pole, or north pole, and the other pole is called the south-seeking, or south pole. This terminology reflects one of the earliest uses of magnetic materials such as lodestone. When suspended from a string, the north pole of these first crude compasses would always seek or point towards the north. This aided Permanent magnet lodestones contain magnetite, a hard, crystalline iron ferrite mineral that derives its magnetism from the effect the earth’s magnetic field has on it. Various steel alloys can also be magnetized. The first big step in developing more effective permanent magnet materials came in the 1930s with the development of Alnico alloy magnets. These magnets take their name from the chemical symbols for the aluminum-nickel-cobalt elements used to make the alloy. Once magnetized, Alnico magnets have between 5 and 17 times the magnetic force of magnetite in judging the direction to steer to reach distant lands and return home.

In the 1970s, researchers developed permanent magnets made from powdered samarium cobalt fused under heat. Just as the materials are different for different kinds of magnets, the manufacturing processes are also different. Many electromagnets are cast using standard metal casting techniques. Flexible permanent magnets are formed in a plastic extrusion process in which the materials are mixed, heated, and forced through a shaped opening under pressure. Electromagnets: The main advantage of an electromagnet over a permanent magnet is that the magnetic field can be quickly changed by controlling the amount of electric current in the winding. However, unlike a permanent magnet that needs no power, an electromagnet requires a continuous supply of current to maintain the magnetic field. An electromagnet is a type of magnet in which the magnetic field is produced by an electric current. The magnetic field disappears when the current is turned off. Electromagnets usually consist of insulated wire wound into a coil. A current through the wire creates a magnetic field which is concentrated in the hole in the center of the coil. The wire turns are often wound around a magnetic core made from a ferromagnetic or ferrimagnetic material such as iron; the magnetic core concentrates the magnetic flux and makes a more powerful magnet. Beginning in 1830, US scientist Joseph Henry systematically improved and popularized the electromagnet. By using wire insulated by silk thread, and inspired by Schweigger’s use of multiple turns of wire to make a galvanometer, he was able to wind multiple layers of wire on cores, creating powerful magnets with thousands of turns of wire, including one that could support 2,063 lb (936 kg). The first major use for electromagnets was in telegraph sounders.

The magnetic domain theory of how ferromagnetic cores work was first proposed in 1906 by French physicist Pierre-Ernest Weiss, and the detailed modern quantum mechanical theory of ferromagnetism was worked out in the 1920s by Werner Heisenberg, Lev Landau, Felix Bloch and others.

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