“How, where or when we’re magnets found or made?” asks Sam (11)

Thanks for the question Sam. Magnets and magnetism was first discovered about  9000 years ago. A long time ago. It was found in rocks and called ‘lodestone’. Lodestone is a naturally occurring compound of iron. It is thought that it was magnetised by lightning strikes.

We will make our own magnets by using a slightly weaker form of electricity.  Here are my team.

Firstly let us try to make a magnet (without using lightning)

You will need a battery and a length of wire and some paperclips. The a collection of nails. Try and find as many different nails as you can. Wrap the wire around the nail and sellotape the bare wire ends to the terminals of the battery. See the diagram below. See how many paperclips you can pick up? Are some nails better than others?

DO NOT USE MAINS ELECTRICITY. IT IS VERY DANGEROUS. 

You might have found out that only certain metals can be made into magnets. These metals are called ferromagnetic metals.

Included in this group are the metal iron and the alloys of iron with the metals cobalt, nickel.

It is thought that in these metals (including iron) have some electrons called ‘free electrons’ (not sure what an electron is, then go to Science Master Special – Atoms and Atomic Structure). It is these ‘free electrons’ that are involved in magnetism. In the alloys the  ‘free’ electrons align themselves with the magnetism of the external magnet, making a (for the alloys) a permanent magnet.

Look at the short video I have made below. In the ferromagnetic metal (iron alloy) crystal domains you will see free electrons. In the metal these will be moving freely. As they begin to interact with the external magnetic field, they begin to align themselves, making a permanent magnet.

“How does a magnet become a magnet?” asks Ava (11)

A brilliant question Ava. I asked my team for their thoughts.

Yes team you are quite right there are some limitations to magnet making. The main one is that only certain metals can be made into magnets. These metals are called ferromagnetic metals.

Included in this group are the metal iron and the alloys of iron with the metals cobalt, nickel and some other rare earth elements .

It is thought that in these metals (including iron) have some electrons called ‘free electrons’ (not sure what an electron is, then go to Science Master Special – Atoms and Atomic Structure). It is these ‘free electrons’ that are involved in magnetism. In the alloys the  ‘free’ electrons align themselves with the magnetism of the external magnet, making a (for the alloys) a permanent magnet. For iron alone the magnetism is only temporary and you can test this in the experiment below.

 

Look at the short video I have made below. In the ferromagnetic metal (iron alloy) crystal domains you will see free electrons. In the metal these will be moving freely. As they begin to interact with the external magnetic field, they begin to align themselves, making a permanent magnet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makeda (7) asked “How does the electricity make a magnet?”

Makeda what a great question, and my answer is, I don’t know. We know that electricity can make a magnet or even give a wire magnetic properties. There are other things which we know but it’s a bit like gravity. We know that big things, like the Earth and the Sun attract smaller things – the Sun attracts the Earth, the Earth attracts you and me BUT we do not know what gravity is, we just know what it does.

So I asked my friends about this.

Absolutely, thank you friends. Electricity is linked to things called electrons that are attached to other things called atoms that make up all of the things that we see around us, and us.

There are some special materials that you might have discovered called ‘metals’. Metals allow the stuff which we call electricity to flow through them. In metals the electrons carry the electricity and when they start moving they not only start moving the electricity there movement creates a magnetic field.

So lets carry out some experiments to investigate electricity and magnetism.

Let us make a simple circuit with a battery and a switch  and add a compass, close to the circuit.   Why a compass? A compass is a very small magnet and will detect other magnets by trying to move towards them or away from them. Switch on the circuit and see what happens. Switch off and again see what happens.

 

Let us know what you saw.

Malina (13) asks – If blood has iron in it , is it magnetic?

magnetic-blood

Apologies accepted. Yes Malina, it was an interesting question.

What I need to ask you, is do you know about electrons? If you do then you will know that elements like iron are made up of atoms. Each atom of iron has a nucleus of protons (positively charged particles, 26) and neutrons (uncharged particles, 30) and surrounding the nucleus are the electrons (26 negatively charged  particles). It’s the way the electrons behave that makes thing interesting. In normal elements like carbon, silicon and sulphur all the electrons are ‘tied’ to the nucleus. They cannot leave the nucleus. In the metallic elements some of the electrons are ‘tied’ but the others are free to move away from the nucleus. This is why metals can conduct electricity (which is the movement of electrons along a metallic wire). It is the free electrons which dictate whether an element is magnetic or not.

Still with me? Hope so – if not you could ask another question.

The electrons themselves are like small magnets and some of them ‘pair up’ as magnets can do. For some elements who have an odd number of free electrons you end up with a lot of free electrons for the others you get complete pairing. See below  for a pairing image.

magnetic-electrons

A metal is classified as ferromagnetic (very magnetic) if it has a lot of unpaired free electrons. iron and nickel are two examples.

When the iron atom begins to combine with other elements to form your hemoglobin there is further pairing of electrons between the iron atoms and the things it is combining with so it loses it’s magnetism.

That was a lot to understand. Hope you have managed.