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M R I machine at a hospital.
Instrument for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The device uses a superconducting cylindrical coil for the main magnetic field. The patient goes into this “tunnel” on the gurney. (credit: Bill McChesney, Flickr)

[link] shows that the response of iron filings to a current-carrying coil and to a permanent bar magnet. The patterns are similar. In fact, electromagnets and ferromagnets have the same basic characteristics—for example, they have north and south poles that cannot be separated and for which like poles repel and unlike poles attract.

The arrangement of iron filings as they are affected by a metal coil that is carrying an electric current and a bar magnet. At the poles of the magnet, the filings are aligned radially to the poles. Between the poles, the filings are roughly parallel to the magnet. Thus, from one pole to the other, the filings have an arcuate arrangement. The density of filings is very high at the poles and relatively low on either side of the center of the magnet. The arrangement is similar around the current-carrying coil.
Iron filings near (a) a current-carrying coil and (b) a magnet act like tiny compass needles, showing the shape of their fields. Their response to a current-carrying coil and a permanent magnet is seen to be very similar, especially near the ends of the coil and the magnet.

Combining a ferromagnet with an electromagnet can produce particularly strong magnetic effects. (See [link] .) Whenever strong magnetic effects are needed, such as lifting scrap metal, or in particle accelerators, electromagnets are enhanced by ferromagnetic materials. Limits to how strong the magnets can be made are imposed by coil resistance (it will overheat and melt at sufficiently high current), and so superconducting magnets may be employed. These are still limited, because superconducting properties are destroyed by too great a magnetic field.

An electrical current runs through a metal wire that is coiled around a ferromagnet.
An electromagnet with a ferromagnetic core can produce very strong magnetic effects. Alignment of domains in the core produces a magnet, the poles of which are aligned with the electromagnet.

[link] shows a few uses of combinations of electromagnets and ferromagnets. Ferromagnetic materials can act as memory devices, because the orientation of the magnetic fields of small domains can be reversed or erased. Magnetic information storage on videotapes and computer hard drives are among the most common applications. This property is vital in our digital world.

Three views into a computer disk showing the magnetic portions of the recording head and the tape.
An electromagnet induces regions of permanent magnetism on a floppy disk coated with a ferromagnetic material. The information stored here is digital (a region is either magnetic or not); in other applications, it can be analog (with a varying strength), such as on audiotapes.

Current: the source of all magnetism

An electromagnet creates magnetism with an electric current. In later sections we explore this more quantitatively, finding the strength and direction of magnetic fields created by various currents. But what about ferromagnets? [link] shows models of how electric currents create magnetism at the submicroscopic level. (Note that we cannot directly observe the paths of individual electrons about atoms, and so a model or visual image, consistent with all direct observations, is made. We can directly observe the electron’s orbital angular momentum, its spin momentum, and subsequent magnetic moments, all of which are explained with electric-current-creating subatomic magnetism.) Currents, including those associated with other submicroscopic particles like protons, allow us to explain ferromagnetism and all other magnetic effects. Ferromagnetism, for example, results from an internal cooperative alignment of electron spins, possible in some materials but not in others.

Crucial to the statement that electric current is the source of all magnetism is the fact that it is impossible to separate north and south magnetic poles. (This is far different from the case of positive and negative charges, which are easily separated.) A current loop always produces a magnetic dipole—that is, a magnetic field that acts like a north pole and south pole pair. Since isolated north and south magnetic poles, called magnetic monopoles    , are not observed, currents are used to explain all magnetic effects. If magnetic monopoles did exist, then we would have to modify this underlying connection that all magnetism is due to electrical current. There is no known reason that magnetic monopoles should not exist—they are simply never observed—and so searches at the subnuclear level continue. If they do not exist, we would like to find out why not. If they do exist, we would like to see evidence of them.

Electric currents and magnetism

Electric current is the source of all magnetism.

Two atomic models that describe the relationship between the movement of electrons and magnetism.
(a) In the planetary model of the atom, an electron orbits a nucleus, forming a closed-current loop and producing a magnetic field with a north pole and a south pole. (b) Electrons have spin and can be crudely pictured as rotating charge, forming a current that produces a magnetic field with a north pole and a south pole. Neither the planetary model nor the image of a spinning electron is completely consistent with modern physics. However, they do provide a useful way of understanding phenomena.

Section summary

  • Magnetic poles always occur in pairs of north and south—it is not possible to isolate north and south poles.
  • All magnetism is created by electric current.
  • Ferromagnetic materials, such as iron, are those that exhibit strong magnetic effects.
  • The atoms in ferromagnetic materials act like small magnets (due to currents within the atoms) and can be aligned, usually in millimeter-sized regions called domains.
  • Domains can grow and align on a larger scale, producing permanent magnets. Such a material is magnetized, or induced to be magnetic.
  • Above a material’s Curie temperature, thermal agitation destroys the alignment of atoms, and ferromagnetism disappears.
  • Electromagnets employ electric currents to make magnetic fields, often aided by induced fields in ferromagnetic materials.

Questions & Answers

where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
learn
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
learn
Google
da
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Bhagvanji
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
revolt
da
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
Damian
yes that's correct
Professor
I think
Professor
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
Alexandre
nanocopper obvius
Alexandre
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
Rafiq
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
Damian
How we are making nano material?
LITNING Reply
what is a peer
LITNING Reply
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
LITNING Reply
What is STMs full form?
LITNING
scanning tunneling microscope
Sahil
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Santosh
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
Mahi
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
Rafiq
if virus is killing to make ARTIFICIAL DNA OF GRAPHENE FOR KILLED THE VIRUS .THIS IS OUR ASSUMPTION
Anam
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Anam
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
Hafiz
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
Bob
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
brayan
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Damian
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
Renato
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
?
Kyle
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
Adin
why?
Adin
what school?
Kyle
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
Joe
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of physics with linear momentum. OpenStax CNX. Aug 11, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11960/1.9
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