How do Magnets Work?
Magnetism is a property of materials that makes them experience a force in a magnetic field. But what makes a metal magnetic? It is all down to unpaired electrons: moving electrons create magnetism due to their magnetic charge, but in most atoms electrons are paired and so cancel each other out.
Most people know the basics of magnets:
- All magnets have two poles – North and South.
- Like poles repel, opposite poles attract.
- Surrounding every magnet is an area that will exert a force: the magnetic field.
- The closer together the magnetic field lines, the stronger the magnet.
What most people don’t know is how this works. Unlike poles attract because the magnetic forces are moving in the same direction. Like poles repel because the forces are moving in opposite directions. Think two people trying to push a revolving door:if you push a door while someone pushes from the other side, the door wont move. If you both push in the same direction the door will swing round.
Fast Fact: The only definitive way to determine if a metal is a magnet instead of just magnetic is to see if it can repel a known magnet.