Magnets are used in many everyday products. Temporary magnets, permanent magnets, and electromagnets are all commonly-used types, and many current technological advances would not be possible without magnets.
Lodestone is a form of a hard iron that contains a mineral called magnetite, and it is the strongest naturally-occurring magnet. Magnets can be produced by placing iron or steel in the presence of a strong magnetic field. Permanent magnets, temporary magnets, and electromagnets are all made with the assistance of a strong magnetic field, but each of these magnets has its own unique properties.
Temporary magnets are used in electric motors, telephones, and a few other electrical products. Certain iron alloys and soft iron can be used to make temporary magnets. Iron alloys that contain iron and nickel can be magnetized in a fairly weak magnetic field.
|Permanent magnets can be made from an alloy of iron, cobalt, nickel, and an aluminum called alnico. Alnico has a flexibility that allows it to be used in unusually-shaped magnets. Ferrites, which are brittle and inexpensive ceramic materials, are also used to make permanent magnets. Ferrites are mostly used in electronic components like radio antennas. Ticonal magnets are also considered permanent; they are made from titanium, nickel, cobalt, aluminum, and iron. Ticonal magnets were created by Philips for use in loudspeakers.|
An electromagnet is often a coiled wire called a solenoid. An electromagnet is only a magnet when an electrical current passes through the wire and creates a magnetic field, and it is strongest and most effective when the wire is wrapped around a soft magnetic iron material (like an iron nail). Electromagnets are used in electric motors, particle accelerators, and medical MRI devices. Older television screens and computer monitors use cathode ray tubes containing electromagnets that disperse electrons on the screen to create images. Hospitals and other medical facilities also use equipment with cathode ray tubes.
|Magnets have many everyday uses. Credit cards have magnetic stripes with cardholders' names and account information encoded on it. Video, voice, and data recording can be done on magnetic media such as cassette tapes, computer hard disks, and computer floppy disks. An electrical motor uses an electromagnet and a permanent magnet to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. A generator does the opposite by using a magnetic field to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. A compass uses a free moving magnetized pointer to point itself toward the earth’s magnetic field.|
A common legend about the discovery of magnets mentions a Greek shepherd named Magnes who lived in Magnesia approximately four-thousand years ago. The legend claims that Magnes' shoes became firmly stuck to a rock after he stood on it. This is because his shoes contained iron nails and had a metal tip, and the rock itself contained the magnetic mineral that is now called magnetite.
Magnetism is a naturally-occurring phenomenon that has been harnessed in order to perform many daily tasks. Many people learn about magnets in school and are intrigued my them.
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