What Is The Power Of Magnetic Force?

Magnetism is a physical phenomenon produced by the motion of electric charges that creates a force of attraction or repulsion. This force is invisible but can be felt and observed in magnetic materials and magnetic fields. Though electricity and magnetism often interact, they are two separate forces.

Magnetism arises from the motion of electrons within an atom. Electrons possess an intrinsic magnetic dipole moment and spin. In some atoms, the electrons orient in such a way that their magnetic moments align, resulting in a net magnetic field. Materials with aligned atomic dipoles are known as magnetic materials.

Magnetic materials produce magnetic fields, regions surrounding a magnet where magnetic forces can be detected. The strength of a magnetic field is measured in units called gauss or tesla. Magnetic fields are represented by imaginary lines used to visualize the magnetic force. The direction of a magnetic field at a given point is revealed by the orientation of a compass placed in that field.

History and Discovery

The properties of magnetism have been observed and studied since ancient times. Early civilizations were fascinated by naturally magnetized pieces of the mineral magnetite, called lodestones. Lodestones were described in ancient Greek texts as early as the 6th century BCE, and were later mentioned in Chinese literature during the 4th century BCE. The earliest reference to magnetism’s ability to attract iron comes from a text written in 6th century India.

By the 12th century, European scholars had noticed that lodestones align along a north-south axis, leading to early magnetic compasses. But the full nature of magnetism remained mysterious until 1820, when Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted made a pivotal discovery while preparing for a lecture. When he accidentally brought a compass near a wire carrying an electric current, the needle deflected, suggesting a link between electricity and magnetism. Ørsted published his findings, launching further research into electromagnetism by Ampère, Faraday and Maxwell in the 19th century.

Sources of Magnetism

Magnetism arises from two main sources: the spin of electrons and the orbital motion of electrons. Electrons have an intrinsic magnetic dipole moment due to their spin. In most atoms, electrons occur in pairs of opposite spin, resulting in no net magnetic moment. However, some materials like iron have unpaired electrons that produce a net spin. Groups of atoms with aligned spins create magnetic domains that collectively produce the magnetic effects we associate with magnets.

Spinning electrons within the atoms of ferromagnetic materials like iron, cobalt, nickel and their alloys generate strong magnetic effects. The electrons in these materials exhibit parallel spin alignment even in the absence of an external magnetic field. This gives rise to permanent magnetism. The magnetic domains within the material align to produce a strong magnetic field.

Electromagnets produce magnetism through the flow of electric current. When current passes through a wire, it generates a circular magnetic field around the wire due to the basic motion of charge. Coiling the wire intensifies the magnetic field. Placing an iron core inside the coil further multiplies the effect. Electromagnets allow control over the magnetism produced by adjusting the electric current.

Magnetic Fields

magnetic fields represent an invisible force that exerts push and pull on magnets and magnetic materials.

Magnetic fields are invisible lines of force that surround any magnet. They extend outwards from the north and south poles of a magnet and can be represented visually using magnetic field lines. These imaginary lines curve from the magnet’s north pole to its south pole to indicate the direction and strength of the magnetic field.

The density of the magnetic field lines indicates the strength of the magnetic field – areas with a high density of field lines represent a strong field, while areas with fewer lines indicate a weaker field. The field is strongest at the poles where the lines are most concentrated and becomes weaker farther away as the lines spread out and become less dense. This demonstrates how the magnetic force decreases with increasing distance from the magnet.

Magnetic field lines never cross as they flow from the north to south poles, taking the path of least resistance. Experiments can map out these invisible fields by placing a magnet under a piece of paper and scattering iron filings on top. The filings align along the field lines allowing us to visualize the shape and direction of the magnetic field.

Magnetic Poles

Every magnet has a north and south pole. North and south poles always occur in pairs in magnets. This is because the source of magnetism comes from moving electric charges, which create magnetic fields. The magnetic fields have directionality, flowing from the north pole to the south pole.

Like magnetic poles repel each other, while opposite magnetic poles attract. This means that the north pole of one magnet will repel the north pole of another magnet. However, the north pole of one magnet will be attracted to the south pole of another magnet. This attraction and repulsion is due to the directionality of the magnetic fields. North pole fields flow in one direction, while south pole fields flow in the opposite direction. When the fields interact, they either align (attract) or oppose (repel) based on the pole directions.

The attractive and repulsive forces between magnetic poles are very strong. Permanent magnets like bar and horseshoe magnets maintain their magnetic fields constantly. The poles on these types of magnets cannot be separated from each other. The magnetic north and south poles always exist together in a stable magnet.

Magnetic Force

When discussing magnetism, magnetic force is one of the most fundamental concepts. Magnetic force describes the strength of push or pull that a magnetic field exerts on other magnets or magnetic materials. There are two key factors that determine the magnitude of magnetic force between two magnets:

Pole Strength – The strength of the north and south poles on a magnet determine how strongly it interacts with other magnets. Stronger poles (which depend on the composition and size of the magnet) produce larger magnetic forces.

Separation Distance – The farther two magnets are separated, the weaker the force between them. Magnetic force drops off rapidly with increased distance. Bringing poles closer together increases the force dramatically.

Understanding these basic principles allows magnetic force to be harnessed for many useful applications:

  • Lifting and moving heavy objects like steel beams and scrap metal in scrapyards and manufacturing facilities.
  • Stabilizing and securing parts during manufacturing processes.
  • Creating torque in electric motors to drive mechanical devices.
  • Enabling technologies like magnetic levitation trains, magnetic resonance imaging, and mass spectrometry.

Though invisible, magnetic force plays an integral role in technologies and processes we rely on every day. Careful engineering and clever utilization of magnetic poles and distances allows us to tap into this ubiquitous force.


Ferromagnetism is a phenomenon by which materials like iron, cobalt and nickel exhibit a strong attraction to magnetic fields. It occurs when the magnetic moments of atoms line up parallel to each other within specific crystalline structures of the material. This alignment of the atomic-level magnetic moments is what gives rise to the strong magnetic properties.

In ferromagnetic materials, the magnetic moments of neighboring atoms interact, causing the spins of adjacent electrons to line up parallel to each other. This alignment reinforces the external magnetic field and creates the strong magnetic attraction. However, this alignment only occurs below a certain temperature called the Curie temperature. Above this temperature, the thermal motion of the atoms essentially randomizes the spin orientations, causing the material to lose its ferromagnetism.

The electron spin alignment that creates ferromagnetism occurs naturally in some crystalline structures where the arrangement of atoms causes the spins to line up. The effect, however, goes away once a material is heated beyond its Curie temperature. Some common ferromagnetic materials like iron have Curie temperatures well above room temperature, so the spin alignment persists under normal conditions.


Electromagnetism refers to the relationship between electricity and magnetism. It describes how an electric current can generate a magnetic field, and how a changing magnetic field can induce an electric current.

When electric current flows through a wire, it produces a circular magnetic field around the wire. This phenomenon is known as Oersted’s Law, named after Danish physicist Hans Christian Oersted who discovered this in 1820. The magnetic field produced by an electric current is directly proportional to the current strength. The direction of the magnetic field depends on the direction of the current flow.

Conversely, a changing magnetic flux can induce an electromotive force, resulting in electric current flow. This is known as electromagnetic induction, and it is the operating principle behind electrical generators and transformers. When a conductor loop cuts across magnetic field lines, a potential difference is generated across the conductor.

The interplay between electricity and magnetism has many practical applications:

  • Electromagnets utilize electric current through a wire wound around a ferromagnetic core to produce powerful magnetic fields. These are used in cranes, door latches, particle accelerators, MRI machines, etc.
  • Electric motors rely on the rotating magnetic fields induced by alternating current in the stator windings to spin the rotor. Motors convert electrical energy into mechanical rotation and power many appliances.
  • Generators convert kinetic energy into electricity by rotating wire loops within a magnetic field. This allows the production of electric power from mechanical rotation.
  • Transformers utilize two sets of coils to change AC voltages from one level to another for efficient power transmission over long distances.

The interdependence between electricity and magnetism is a key concept in electromagnetism with broad scientific and engineering significance.

Everyday Examples

Magnetism plays an important role in many common devices and technologies that we interact with on a daily basis. Some notable examples include:

Refrigerator Magnets

Refrigerator magnets utilize permanent magnets, often made of ferromagnetic materials like iron or nickel, to adhere to metal surfaces like a refrigerator door. While they seem simple, they demonstrate the ability of magnetic fields to exert forces without direct contact.

Computer Hard Drives

Hard disk drives store data on quickly rotating disks coated with magnetic material. Read/write heads alter the magnetization of tiny areas on the disks to encode data. The use of magnetism allows vast amounts of data to be stored in a small space.

Magnetic Levitation Trains

Maglev (magnetic levitation) trains use the attraction and repulsion of magnets to levitate the train above the track. This eliminates friction for high speeds and efficiency. Sensors and automated controls keep the train levitated and stable.


Compasses contain a tiny magnetized needle that aligns itself with the Earth’s magnetic field lines. The north pole of the needle points toward the north magnetic pole. Compasses demonstrate how magnetism can provide directional information.


The properties and power of magnetic force prove incredibly useful in our everyday lives. We rely on magnetism for everything from household appliances, to medical technologies, to generating electricity.

This article recapped how magnetism arises from the motion of electric charges, producing magnetic fields and poles. The strength of magnetic force depends on factors like pole alignment, distance, and material properties. Certain materials like iron are ferromagnetic and easily magnetized. Current flowing in wires also induces magnetism through electromagnetism. The utility of magnetic properties allows us to generate, control, and harness magnetic forces.

Overall, magnetism provides an invisible force that structures much of our physical world. Our modern technological society leverages magnetic forces in countless ways. Scientifically understanding magnetism has enabled innovations in communications, transportation, medicine, and energy. The power of magnetism will likely continue providing foundational support for civilization and progress long into the future.

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