Natural magnets are distinct from artificial magnets because they can acquire magnetic properties without any external influence. Artificial magnets, on the other hand, can be temporarily or permanently magnetized when rubbed with magnets or exposed to electric fields.
When it comes to natural magnets, it is not necessary to apply a magnetic field because they are naturally magnetic. In this article, we will examine what makes natural magnets truly valuable.
How Can You Identify Natural Magnets or a Rare Earth Magnet?
A natural magnet can be found in its natural state. All magnets found in nature are permanent magnets, meaning their magnetic strength is maintained indefinitely. You can find natural magnets in sand deposits all over the world.
Lodestone, also referred to as magnetite, is the most powerful natural magnet material. It is considered part of the family of rare earth metals and is comparable to neodymium magnets in that way.
When polished, this mineral reveals a stunning jet-black sheen, which makes these rare earth permanent magnets even more valuable. It looks similar to samarium cobalt. The first compasses relied on the lodestone to function. Since lodestone is a natural magnet, its north pole, when allowed to spin freely, will always point in the direction of the geographic north pole of the Earth.
Also Read: How do I know if my magnet is Neodymium magnet?
At modern mineral and gem shows, you can find lodestones for sale. Lodestone is a type of natural magnet that can be used to draw metal objects to it. You can test their magnetic pull's power by playing with them. If you have a string of lodestones, you can use one to propel them into the air.
Other magnets exist that are naturally magnetic, but these minerals are weaker and cannot lift as much metal. They include pyrrhotite, ferrite, and columbite, to name a few.
What Gives Rare Earth Magnets Their Value?
Most natural magnets can be classified as rare earth magnets. Electric vehicles and wind turbines rely on powerful permanent magnets from rare earth materials. Uses for rare earth magnets are just as varied.
They play a crucial role in the global rare earth supply chain by transforming the mined minerals into high-value inputs for the electronics and weaponry industries. Neodymium magnet materials are one example of how not many rare earth magnets lose value.
They have found use in medical imaging technologies like positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, X-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. In addition, rare earth magnets have many uses, including those in the aerospace and defense industries, computer hard drives, consumer electronics, and electric vehicles.
How Are Natural Magnets Extracted?
Natural magnets are obtained by isolating each rare earth element from its mineral ore, a strenuous activity. Thus making them a valuable commodity. Both mining and refining are labor-intensive processes that were traditionally accomplished through crystallization.
Due to their co-occurrence with other elements, rare earth necessitates a solvent extraction process for purification. In this procedure, a chemical reaction is used to coerce one of the two elements into undergoing a phase transition, e.g., from liquid to solid.
Because of this chemical reaction, the elemental concentrations change, and the elements themselves spread out. Although the change is almost invisible, it takes tens of thousands of extractions before the substance can be considered pure. As a result, although the process achieves the desired results, it is extremely inefficient, wasteful, and time-consuming.
What Are The Benefits Typical To A Natural Rare Earth Elements Magnet?
The magnetic strengths of permanent or natural magnets are primarily used in manufacturing. However, the following are a few of the benefits that come along with having a natural magnet.
Extremely Rare And Valuable
Similarly to other natural magnets, lodestone is in short supply. When polished, this magnet reveals a deep, jet-black sheen. A jewelry store is a good place to look for lodestone, and comes at a hefty price tag.
Useful For Navigation
The magnetic compass uses lodestone or magnetite, the strongest naturally occurring magnet, to align automatically with the true north and south. Hanging a lodestone from a rope will cause it to rotate until the magnetite's north pole points toward the North Pole of Earth.
Does Not Require Any Additional Magnetization
Lodestone is the most potent naturally occurring magnet and does not require additional magnetizing. Various applications exist due to their inherent ability to attract iron particles.
Because it occurs naturally, no energy is required to manufacture these magnets. Having an option rather than creating artificial magnets is one of the many benefits of using a natural magnet. However, natural or permanent magnets maintain a weak magnetic field.
What Are The Drawbacks Of A Natural Magnet?
If you compare a natural magnet to an artificial one, you'll quickly see its drawbacks. The following are some of the main reasons why natural magnets are not suitable for industrial applications:
Extraction Costs For Natural Magnets Are High
Getting to a natural magnet that lies far beneath the earth's surface requires more effort and time. This has a high environmental and monetary cost. However, the artificially manufactured magnet is superior in efficiency and cost and is much more widely applicable and powerful than the natural magnet.
Relatively Weak Magnetic Pull
It's impossible to put any permanent magnet to practical use in the industry because of its weak magnetic field. Lodestone, the strongest natural magnet, can still be outdone by tiny iron particles. The inability of natural magnets to draw in non-magnetic metals like aluminum, copper, etc., is another disadvantage.
Natural magnets are highly corrosive. This property exacerbates a serious problem with using a magnet made from natural materials. If its power is diminished, it can no longer be adjusted as required.
It Is Impossible To Control Magnetism
Since a natural magnet is only useful up to a certain point, it can't be used for making heaters and other high-temperature devices. Unlike an artificial magnet, which can be turned off when not in use, a natural magnet, a permanent magnet's magnetism is always on and cannot be turned off.
In many ways, magnets are essential to human existence. For example, magnetism can be found in appliances as diverse as audio systems. Permanent magnets, also known as natural magnets, are magnets that occur in nature and maintain their magnetic field. Unlike an electromagnet, which is manufactured, its magnetic field is generated naturally by the magnetism within the object.