What Metals Are Attracted To Magnets?


When it comes to the field of understanding how magnetism works, many people will often have some basic understanding of the process.

What Metals Are Attracted To Magnets

After all, past a certain age, most people will at least know the basics: That is, some metals are attracted to magnets, and others just aren’t.

However, ask people which metals and other elements exactly are and aren’t affected by them, and you may find yourself with more mumbles than solid answers.

You may get the occasional person that mentions iron, brass, or nickel, but outside of that, things get a little fuzzy.

This is something that our guide hopes to help you out with, by giving you several metals that generally are affected and attracted to magnets, as well as a few that aren’t either.

How Magnetism Works

However, before we go any further into this discussion, it may be a useful catch-up lesson to quickly explain how exactly magnetism works.

That way, you’ll also have the groundwork laid to understand how metals, or more specifically, their atoms, are and aren’t affected by this powerful fundamental force of the universe.

The Basics

Firstly, we’ll start with the basics. Most people are aware that magnets tend to have north and south poles, and that a pair of the same poles will repel each other, while the opposite poles will attract.

Many people will also be aware that magnetic and electrical fields can interact with each other, with electromagnets being one of the more obvious examples out there.

Other people may also be aware that electromagnetic fields and forces are, alongside gravity, and nuclear strong and weak forces.

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However, these facts do not explain what gives magnets their attributes and behavior, and why they act the way they do.

How Magnets Work

All magnets create a line of force that exits the north pole of the object or area and enter the south pole, creating the magnetic force.

These will generally have a positive and negative charge to them, which can also interact with the positive and negative charges of the atoms that surround them.

Now, many objects in the natural world contain a magnetic field of some kind. However, for the most part, many objects do not have a strong enough magnetic field for these effects to become noticeable.

However, in some objects, such as in some metals like iron, the arrangement of these forces can align in such a way that the lines of the magnetic field converge in a similar direction, creating the magnetic effect that many people will be familiar with.

What Makes A Metal Magnetic?

So, we have at least a working understanding of how magnetic field work.

But how exactly does this relate to what metals are and aren’t attracted to magnets?

Well, it comes back down to how objects interact with magnetic fields, and ties back into how the atoms of a particular element react to them.

What Metals Are Attracted To Magnets (1)

As we have established, all objects usually have some kind of magnetic field to them, but how strong they are varies depending on the element that they are made from is, and how the microstructures of the elements are arranged.

This means that certain metals that have the correct straight alignment of their microstructures, such as iron and nickel, will have a noticeably stronger magnetic force contained within them, whereas other metals that have a weaker and less organized microstructure, such as gold, will not be noticeably affected by magnets, if at all.

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Metals that are attracted to magnets are known as ferromagnetic metals,

Magnetic metals

So, now that we have explained the basics, we can finally get around to discussing the metals themselves!

Iron

Starting us off, we have probably the metal that everyone will be aware of having magnetic properties, iron.

Aron has been known for having magnetic qualities for centuries, at this point, and is used in everything, from household objects to piping and infrastructure.

This is thanks to the microstructure of iron atoms being aligned in a single direction, allowing for their magnetic field to be very strong when compared to many other elements on the periodic table.

There’s a whole historical period named after it, for goodness’ sake! What else is there that needs to be said about it?

Iron is also one of the most used metals when it comes to giving other metals or objects magnetic properties. Mixing iron into many compounds will often transfer that magnetic quality to the object it has become a part of.

Interestingly enough, it was only in the 1950s that we were able to start crafting ceramic irons that could be used in day-to-day activities!

Nickel

Outside of iron, nickel is likely the most common metal that people will know has magnetic properties.

Nickel is a relatively recent addition to the periodic table, with it only being identified as its element in the 17th century.

Interestingly enough, nickel’s magnetic properties are much more pronounced when the element has been heated up, which was how the element was discovered.

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Nickel is often used in place over iron because, as well as its magnetic qualities, nickel is also much more resistant to the effects of rusting and corrosion than iron, which is why it is often used in alloys to prevent them from rusting in the first place.

Cobalt

Cobalt has been a metal that has been known for centuries but is comparatively rare to find on earth, similar to nickel.

Cobalt is known for its somewhat blue color when added to specific compounds, as well as the fact when German miners tried to smelt it in the 11th century, they were often left with a white powder and poisonous fumes (cobalt is derived from the word kobold, the German word for ‘Goblin’, on account of its mysterious and tricky identity).

Cobalt is primarily used in the creation of lithium-ion batteries, as well as in rust-resistant, conductive, and magnetic alloy plating.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the science behind magnets is a little mind-bending but makes a lot of sense when laid out in the right way.

Materials – Are They Magnetic?

Magnet Fishing Adventure

Anthony is passionate about magnet fishing. He likes to go out magnet fishing with his friends. On this site he shares his knowledge, experience, and details about magnet fishing gear and research with you.

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