Understanding Magnets

Understanding Magnets

Today, magnets are used in a broad range of businesses and industries.  These include, but are not limited to mining, food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and plastic and glass manufacturing. They are also incredibly valuable in sorting materials.  

Clearly, magnets are popular, but not everyone understands how they work. In order to better understand why they are so prominent, we have shared some basic magnet information.

First, a bit about magnets in general. As you may have noticed, magnets have two sides. These are referred to as the poles …. North and South. And, as often in life, opposites attract - so the north and south poles of two separate magnets would be attracted to each other. Not surprisingly, the opposite is also true - two north or two south poles will repel each other. But magnets also attract other items that are NOT magnets themselves - they are magnetic.

When determining what materials will actually stick to a magnet, the key lies predominantly in one word - iron. So, if you have something made of iron or something that contains iron (like items made of steel) a magnet will attract them.  But that’s not to say that iron is the only element magnets attract. In fact, nickel and cobalt are also magnetic.

It is important to recognize that when identifying what is attracted to magnets, the single word “metal” is not a good answer.  You see, metal is a term that encompasses a broad range of elements and materials.  While iron is a metal, so is aluminum.  But, aluminum is not magnetic. Just try to stick a magnet to your soda can…..it does not work.

If you were wondering what types of items are magnetic, we can help.  The list below shares a number of items in your home. that your magnet will attract or stick to: 

  • Office Supplies: including scissors, paper clips, and staples

  • Headphones/earbuds

  • Certain appliances (refrigerators, dishwashers)

  • Tools: Nuts, bolts, and screws

  • Keys (if they are made of iron)

Other items that use magnets to operate include:

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Machines

  • Compasses

  • Filters (used to separate ore from other metals and to remove  any metal from grain products to be used in food manufacturing)

  • Mines (in the Military)

On the surface, magnets seem simple. They attract certain materials and repel other magnets. But, in reality, they are incredibly complex and used in businesses and industries across the country and around the world. Even more impressive, new uses for magnets are constantly being developed and honed. Their value continues to grow and as a society, we continue to benefit from their uses.

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