Magnetic Energy

Magnetic Energy

[/caption]During the 19th century, one of the greatest discoveries in the history of physics was made by an Scottish physicist named James Clerk Maxwell. It was at this time, while studying the perplexing nature of magnetism and electricity, that he proposed a radical new theory. Electricity and magnetism, long thought to be separate forces, were in actuality closely associated with each other. That is, every electrical current has associated with it a magnetic field and every changing magnetic field creates its own electrical current. Maxwell went on to express this in a set of partial differential equations, known as Maxwell’s Equations, and form the basis for both electrical and Magnetic Energy.

In fact, thanks to Maxwell’s work, magnetic and electric energy are more appropriately considered as a single force. Together, they are what is known as electromagnetic energy – i.e. a form of energy that has both electrical and magnetic components. It is created when one runs a magnetic current through a wire or any other conducive material, creating a magnetic field. The magnetic energy generated can be used to attract other metal parts (as in the case in many modern machines that have moving parts) or can be used to generate electricity and store power (hydroelectric dams and batteries).

Since the 19th century, scientists have gone on to understand that many types of energy are in fact forms of electromagnetic energy. These include x rays, gamma rays, visible light (i.e. photons), ultraviolet light, infrared radiation, radio waves, and microwaves. These forms of electromagnetic energy differ from each other only in terms of the wavelength and frequency. Those forms which have shorter waves and higher frequencies tend to be the more harmful varieties, such as x-rays and gamma rays, while those that have longer waves and shorter frequencies, such as radio waves, tend to be more benign.

In mathematical terms, the equation for measuring the output of a magnetic field can be expressed as follows: V = L dI/dt + RI where V is volume, L is inductance, R is resistance, I is charge, dI represents change in charge, and dt represents change over time.

Here are some articles about Magnetic Energy written for Universe Today.
Behind the Power and Beauty of Northern Lights
Magnetic Fields in Inter-cluster Space: Measured at Last

If you’d like more info on Magnetic Energy, check out these articles:
Wikipedia Entry on Magnetic Energy
More info about magnetic energy

We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Magnetism. Listen here, Episode 42: Magnetism Everywhere.

Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_energy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Clerk_Maxwell
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell%27s_equations
http://fi.edu/guide/hughes/10types/typesmagnetic.html
http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching/em/lectures/node84.html
http://science.jrank.org/pages/2489/Energy-Magnetic-energy.html

How Do Magnets Work

How Do Magnets Work

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We have all played with magnets from time to time. Every time you do, you have asked yourself ‘how do magnets work?’ Many of us understand that magnets have two different charges and that like charges repel each other, but that still does not explain how a magnet works. Below is an attempt to explain the basics behind the secret inner workings of the mysterious magnet.

A magnet is any material or object that produces a magnetic field. This magnetic field is responsible for the property of a magnet: a force that pulls on other ferromagnetic materials and attracts or repels other magnets. A permanent magnet is an object made from a material that is magnetized and creates its own persistent magnetic field. Materials that can be magnetized, which are strongly attracted to a magnet, are called ferromagnetic. Although ferromagnetic materials are the only ones attracted to a magnet strongly enough to be commonly considered magnetic, all other substances respond weakly to a magnetic field.

Some facts about magnets include:

  • the north pole of the magnet points to the geomagnetic north pole (a south magnetic pole) located in Canada above the Arctic Circle.
  • north poles repel north poles
  • south poles repel south poles
  • north poles attract south poles
  • south poles attract north poles
  • the force of attraction or repulsion varies inversely with the distance squared
  • the strength of a magnet varies at different locations on the magnet
  • magnets are strongest at their poles
  • magnets strongly attract steel, iron, nickel, cobalt, gadolinium
  • magnets slightly attract liquid oxygen and other materials
  • magnets slightly repel water, carbon and boron

The mechanics of how do magnets work really breaks right down to the atomic level. When current flows in a wire a magnetic field is created around the wire. Current is simply a bunch of moving electrons, and moving electrons make a magnetic field. This is how electromagnets are made to work.

Around the nucleus of the atom there are electrons. Scientists used to think that they had circular orbits, but have discovered that things are much more complicated. Actually, the patterns of the electron within one of these orbitals takes into account Schroedinger’s wave equations. Electrons occupy certain shells that surround the nucleus of the atom. These shells have been given letter names K,L,M,N,O,P,Q. They have also been given number names, such as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7(think quantum mechanics). Within the shell, there may exist subshells or orbitals, with letter names such as s,p,d,f. Some of these orbitals look like spheres, some like an hourglass, still others like beads. The K shell contains an s orbital called a 1s orbital. The L shell contains an s and p orbital called a 2s and 2p orbital. The M shell contains an s, p and d orbital called a 3s, 3p and 3d orbital. The N, O, P and Q shells each contain an s, p, d and f orbital called a 4s, 4p, 4d, 4f, 5s, 5p, 5d, 5f, 6s, 6p, 6d, 6f, 7s, 7p, 7d and 7f orbital. These orbitals also have various sub-orbitals. Each can only contain a certain number of electrons. A maximum of 2 electrons can occupy a sub-orbital where one has a spin of up, the other has a spin of down. There can not be two electrons with spin up in the same sub-orbital(the Pauli exclusion principal). Also, when you have a pair of electrons in a sub-orbital, their combined magnetic fields will cancel each other out. If you are confuse, you are not alone. Many people get lost here and just wonder about magnets instead of researching further.

When you look at the ferromagnetic metals it is hard to see why they are so different form the elements next to them on the periodic table. It is generally accepted that ferromagnetic elements have large magnetic moments because of un-paired electrons in their outer orbitals. The spin of the electron is also thought to create a minute magnetic field. These fields have a compounding effect, so when you get a bunch of these fields together, they add up to bigger fields.

To wrap things up on ‘how do magnets work?’, the atoms of ferromagnetic materials tend to have their own magnetic field created by the electrons that orbit them. Small groups of atoms tend to orient themselves in the same direction. Each of these groups is called a magnetic domain. Each domain has its own north pole and south pole. When a piece of iron is not magnetized the domains will not be pointing in the same direction, but will be pointing in random directions canceling each other out and preventing the iron from having a north or south pole or being a magnet. If you introduce current(magnetic field), the domains will start to line up with the external magnetic field. The more current applied, the higher the number of aligned domains. As the external magnetic field becomes stronger, more and more of the domains will line up with it. There will be a point where all of the domains within the iron are aligned with the external magnetic field(saturation), no matter how much stronger the magnetic field is made. After the external magnetic field is removed, soft magnetic materials will revert to randomly oriented domains; however, hard magnetic materials will keep most of their domains aligned, creating a strong permanent magnet. So, there you have it.

We have written many articles about magnets for Universe Today. Here’s an article about bar magnets, and here’s an article about super magnets.

If you’d like more info on magnets, check out some cool experiments with magnets, and here’s a link to an article about super magnets by Wise Geek.

We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Magnetism. Listen here, Episode 42: Magnetism Everywhere.

Sources:
Wise Geek
Wikipedia: Magnet
Wikipedia: Ferromagnetism

What are Magnets Made Of

Magnet

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Magnets are the unsung heroes of the Modern Age. However most people don’t really understand what are magnets made of and how they even work. The issue is that we just know that magnets attract iron and nickel. However, magnets have a very interesting origin and can be seen as a physical manifestation of the electromagnetic force.

All magnets are made of a group of metals called the ferromagnetic metals. These are metals such as nickel and iron. Each of these metals have the special property of being able to be magnetized uniformly. When we ask how a magnet works we are simply asking how the object we call a magnet exerts it’s magnetic field. The answer is actually quite interesting.

In every material there are several small magnetic fields called domains. Most of the times these domains are independent of each other and face different directions. However, a strong magnetic field can arrange the domains of any ferromagnetic metal so that they align to make a larger and stronger magnetic field. This is how most magnets are made.

The major difference among magnets is whether they are permanent or temporary. Temporary magnets lose their larger magnetic field over time as the domains return to their original positions. The most common way that magnets are produced is by heating them to their Curie temperature or beyond. The Curie temperature is the temperature at which a ferromagnetic metals gains magnetic properties. Heating a ferromagnetic material to its given temperature will make it magnetic for a while. While heating it beyond this point can make the magnetism permanent. Ferromagnetic materials can also be categorized into soft and hard metals. Soft metals loses their magnetic field over time after being magnetized while hard metals are likely candidates for becoming permanent magnets.

Not all magnets are manmade. Some magnets occur naturally in nature such as lodestone. This mineral was used in ancient times to make the first compasses. However, magnets have other uses. With the discovery of the relation between magnetism and electricity, magnets are now a major part of every electric motor and turbine in existence. Magnets have also been used in storing computer data. There is now a type of drive called a solid state drive that allows data to still be saved more efficiently on computers.

We have written many articles about magnets for Universe Today. Here’s an article about the Earth’s magnetic field, and here’s an article about the bar magnet.

If you’d like more info on Magnets, check out NASA’s Discussion on Magnets, and here’s a link to an article about Magnetic Fields.

We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Magnetism. Listen here, Episode 42: Magnetism Everywhere.

Sources:
NASA
Wikipedia

Electromagnetism

The short version: electromagnetism is one of the four fundamental forces (the strong force, the weak force, and gravitation are the other three), responsible for all magnetic, electrical, and electromagnetic phenomena.

The long version is a little more complicated.

Start with history … phenomena we today call electrical have been known for millennia (e.g. static electricity), as have their magnetic counterparts (e.g. lodestone). The 17th and 18th centuries saw considerable scientific study of each, as separate forces, with Ørsted and Ampère uniting the two into electromagnetism, around 1820. Maxwell consolidated (in 1864) everything known about electromagnetism into what today we call Maxwell’s equations … and predicted electromagnetic waves (or radiation), a prediction verified by Hertz, two decades later. However, Maxwell’s equations opened a can of worms (to do with the aether, and the speed of light) … which lead to Einstein and special relativity. In parallel, a series of discoveries lead to photons (the quanta of electromagnetic radiation) and quantum mechanics, and these in turn to the recognition that the spectacular success of classical electromagnetism (i.e. Maxwell’s equations) actually depends on quantum field theory (with all its counter-intuitives).

Fast forward to the 1940s, and Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), which has electrically charged particles interacting via exchanges of photons (real or virtual), and describes all electromagnetic phenomena. QED is the most successful theory in physics, period (it has been tested, and found accurate, to one part in 1012!).

Here’s a fun fact: QED incorporates special relativity … and an electric charge (with no magnetic field) becomes an electric current (with an associated magnetic field), in relativity, simply by switching to a frame of reference moving with respect to the (stationary) electrical charge.

So, in its classical form, electromagnetism is an instantaneous ‘action at a distance’ type of force; in its quantum form; it’s an exchange of virtual photons, at the speed of light.

Now for more complication.

In 1979 Sheldon L. Glashow, Abdus Salam, and Steven Weinberg shared the Nobel Prize for Physics, for their contributions to the unification of electromagnetism and the weak force … which goes under the name electroweak interaction. So electromagnetism is just one manifestation of something more general, just as electricity and magnetism are two manifestations of one underlying thing, electromagnetism.

Want to learn more? Try Stargazers’ Electromagnetism, Math Pages on Maxwell’s equations, Richard Feynman’s excellent non-technical book on QED, and the 1979 Nobel Press Release on the electroweak interaction.

To get a handle on how diverse the roles of electromagnetism are, in astronomy, check out these Universe Today articles (just some of the many): Stellar Jets are Born Knotted,
Magnetic “Ropes” Connect the Northern Lights to the Solar Wind, and Spitzer Spies Ghostly Magnetar.

Astronomy Cast has an episode devoted to electromagnetism, called Electromagnetism. Some others you may also find interesting, on this topic, are The Search for the Theory of Everything, and The Important Numbers in the Universe.

Sources:
Wikipedia
University of Oregon
NASA