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The Right Hand Rule.

Case study : the right hand rule

Use the Right Hand Rule to draw in the directions of the magnetic fields for the following conductorswith the currents flowing in the directions shown by the arrows. The first problem has been completed for you.


Experiment : magnetic field around a current carrying conductor


  1. one 9V battery with holder
  2. two hookup wires with alligator clips
  3. compass
  4. stop watch


  1. Connect your wires to the battery leaving one end of each wire unconnected so that the circuit is not closed.
  2. One student should be in charge of limiting the current flow to 10 seconds. This is to preserve battery life as well as to prevent overheating of the wires and battery contacts.
  3. Place the compass close to the wire.
  4. Close the circuit and observe what happens to the compass.
  5. Reverse the polarity of the battery and close the circuit. Observe what happens to the compass.


Use your observations to answer the following questions:

  1. Does a current flowing in a wire generate a magnetic field?
  2. Is the magnetic field present when the current is not flowing?
  3. Does the direction of the magnetic field produced by a current in a wire depend on the direction of the current flow?
  4. How does the direction of the current affect the magnetic field?

Case study : magnetic field around a loop of conductor

Consider two loops made from a conducting material, which carry currents (in opposite directions) and are placed in the planeof the page. By using the Right Hand Rule, draw what you think the magnetic field would look like at different points around each of the twoloops. Loop 1 has the current flowing in a counter-clockwise direction, while loop 2 has the current flowing in a clockwisedirection.

If you make a loop of current carrying conductor, then the direction of the magnetic field is obtained by applying the RightHand Rule to different points in the loop.

If we now add another loop with the current in the same direction, then the magnetic field around each loop can be added together to create a stronger magnetic field. A coil of many such loops is called a solenoid . The magnetic field pattern around a solenoid is similar to the magnetic field pattern around the bar magnet that you studied in Grade 10, which had a definite north and south pole.

Magnetic field around a solenoid.

Real-world applications


An electromagnet is a piece of wire intended to generate a magnetic field with the passage of electric current through it.Though all current-carrying conductors produce magnetic fields, an electromagnet is usually constructed in such a way as to maximizethe strength of the magnetic field it produces for a special purpose. Electromagnets are commonly used in research,industry, medical, and consumer products. An example of a commonly used electromagnet is in security doors, e.g. on shop doors which open automatically.

As an electrically-controllable magnet, electromagnets form part of a wide variety of "electromechanical" devices: machines that produce a mechanical force or motion through electricalpower. Perhaps the most obvious example of such a machine is the electric motor which will be described in detail in Grade 12. Other examples of the use of electromagnets are electric bells, relays, loudspeakers and scrapyard cranes.

Experiment : electromagnets


A magnetic field is created when an electric current flows through a wire. A single wire does not produce a strong magnetic field,but a wire coiled around an iron core does. We will investigate this behaviour.


  1. a battery and holder
  2. a length of wire
  3. a compass
  4. a few nails


  1. If you have not done the previous experiment in this chapter do it now.
  2. Bend the wire into a series of coils before attaching it to the battery. Observe what happens to the deflection of the needle on the compass. Has the deflection of the compass grown stronger?
  3. Repeat the experiment by changing the number and size of the coils in the wire. Observe what happens to the deflection on the compass.
  4. Coil the wire around an iron nail and then attach the coil to the battery. Observe what happens to the deflection of the compass needle.


  1. Does the number of coils affect the strength of the magnetic field?
  2. Does the iron nail increase or decrease the strength of the magnetic field?

Magnetic fields

  1. Give evidence for the existence of a magnetic field near a current carrying wire.
  2. Describe how you would use your right hand to determine the direction of a magnetic field around a current carrying conductor.
  3. Use the Right Hand Rule to determine the direction of the magnetic field for the following situations:
  4. Use the Right Hand Rule to find the direction of the magnetic fields at each of the points labelled A - H in the following diagrams.

Questions & Answers

Why do vectors have arrows?
vanessa Reply
vector quantity has both direction and magnitude so arrows illustrate the direction of the vector
how to calculate net electric field at a point
Bazel Reply
what are controlled variables
Link Reply
Independent variables in an experiment which influence the outcome results
Such as temperature when dealing with ohms law
variables whose amount is determined by the person doing the experiment
how to calculate exodation number
Cphiwe Reply
Calculate relative atomic mass
Lindo Reply
what is chemical bonding?
Lefa Reply
Chemical Bonding is a mutual attraction between two atoms resulting from the simultaneous attraction between their nuclei and the outer elections
How would you go about finding the resistance of an unknown resistor using only power supply, a voltmeter and a known resistance
who is the scientist who discovered electromagnetism
Zivele Reply
what happens to the galvanometer when the switch is closed ?
how do we identify an oxidising or reducing agent in a reaction?
what is electricity
Vihanga Reply
Formula for concentration
Kabelo Reply
if given number of moles and volume , can use c=n/V
Chemistry term three topic is stressing me out, I really need a huge help
on what
during a snooker competition ,a 200g ball A m moving with velocity va collide head on with a identical ball B that was at rest.A after the collision ball A remains at rest wile ball B moves on with a velocity of 4m/s? With what speed was ball a moving before the collision
mathew Reply
a vector can be resolved into a horizontal component only
Lizoh Reply
how to calculate normal force
Chauke Reply
how to calculate wavelength
Hello. How does a real gas behave under low temperature and high pressure?
Valerie Reply
does a vector quantity include force and distance?
Lebo Reply
what's the difference between a vector and a scalar?
vector is the physical quantity with magnitude and direction Scalar is the Physical quantity with magnitude only
Newton's second law of motion
Thelma Reply
Newton second law motin
Newton's second law of motion: When a resultant/net force acts on an object, the object will accelerate in the direction of the force at an acceleration directly proportional to the force and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.
newtons third law of motion
when object A exert a force on object B object B SIMULTANEOUS exert a force of equal magnitude on object A

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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 11 physical science. OpenStax CNX. Jul 29, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11241/1.2
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