The Mysterious Magnet Demystified ─ How Do They Work and What Are They Made From?

Magnets are a mysterious thing. They always have been, they probably always will be. They are so mysterious, in fact, that many scientists believe there is still so much more we don't know about them than the things we actually do know. Since some things are known about them, however, those are the things we would be discussing today.

Below are two of the biggest mysteries of magnets demystified

How Do Magnets Work?

How magnets work has probably been the biggest mystery surrounding these devices since they were first discovered. 

How did these strange metals stick to the surface of other metals even when said surface is vertical or turned upside down? How do they pull other metals to themselves without any form of contact? How come small pieces of them can move much larger metal? How come they can move some metals and not others?

These questions can probably go on forever! Thankfully, all these questions can be answered by simply understanding how magnets work, and while fully understanding it would require some technical knowledge of physics, we’d try to keep it simple. 

Magnets work as a result of a  phenomenon called magnetism, which occurs as a result of magnetic substances coming into the natural magnetic fields radiating from magnets. This magnetic field is the area around any magnetic particle or substance within which other magnetic substances would be drawn towards the magnets.

Some metals are attracted to magnets, and others are not. This is actually due to the magnetic field produced by these metals themselves, or to be more specific, the electrons in them. You see, not only magnets produce magnetic fields, but electrons also do. It is due to the magnetic field the electrons on the surface of metals produce that they get attracted to magnets. Yet, in some metals, the electric field of these metals point in different directions, thereby canceling each other out. These kinds of metals are the ones that don't get attracted to magnets. This is the same reason why non-metals don't get attracted to magnets.

Magnetic metals, on the other hand, have the magnetic field of their electrons pointing in the same direction, thereby making them easily affected by the magnetic fields around magnets.

How Are Magnets Made?

Another of the big mysteries of magnets is what they are made of. 

Here's the thing. Magnets are not made of any single type of material. Instead, they can be created from any material that is strongly attracted to magnets. These materials are called ferromagnetic metals, and they include elements like iron, cobalt, nickel, and their alloys.

So, how exactly do we convert regular ferromagnetic metals like iron into magnets? Well, the answer to that is pretty interesting.

Remember, we said every substance contains electrons and that every electron has its own magnetic field? Well, the magnetic field of the electrons in these ferromagnetic metals is what we use to turn them into magnets. This is achieved by arranging the individual magnetic field of the electrons in ferromagnetic metals in such a way that they come together to form a much larger and much more powerful magnetic field, one strong enough to attract other magnetic metals brought within their magnetic field ─ essentially turning them into magnets themselves.

Arranging the magnetic fields of the electrons in a ferromagnetic metal can be achieved by various means, including heating the metal, by inducing magnetism with another magnet, and by using electric current.

There is more to creating a magnet than simply rearranging the magnetic field of ferromagnetic metals, however. Depending on how the magnetic field of the electrons in a ferromagnetic metal is arranged, the resulting magnet can be either a temporary or permanent magnet. 

Temporary magnets are those magnets that lose their larger magnetic field over time, i.e., after being induced with magnetism via whatever method one chooses to use, the electrons revert to their normal place, thereby losing their larger, more powerful magnetic field. Permanent magnets, on the other hand, retain their higher magnetic field.

Not all magnets are man-made, however. A good example of this is a lodestone, a natural magnet that has existed as far back as history can remember.

So there you have it. The two biggest mysteries of magnets were revealed. There's still so much about these beautiful tools that we still know very little about, but thankfully, we are not completely ignorant.

Want to find out more about magnets? We've got so many more articles like this; you can check out!

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