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.