Sources of Magnetism

What is Magnetism?

Sources of Magnetism

Types of Magnetism



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Magnetic Moments

Let's start with what a magnetic moment is. It's a quantity that determines the force the magnet can exert on electric currents and the torque a magnetic field will excert the magnet. A loop of electric current, an electron, a molecule, a planet, and a simple bar magent all have magnetic moments.

Magnetism Sources

Magnetic moments affect magnetism, but magnetism itself, arises from two sources:

  • Electric Current

  • Nuclear Magnetic Moments of Atomic Nuclei

The magnetic moments of atomic Nuclei are thousands of times smaller than the electrons' magnetic moments, making them negligible in the context of the magnetization of materials. However, nuclear magnetic moments are very important in nuclear magnetic resonance and magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs).

Because electrons combine into pairs with opposite intrinsic magnetic moments, or sometimes combine into filled shubshells with zero orbital motion, normally electrons in a material are arranged such that their magnetic moments cancel out. Additionally, even when electron configuration allows unpaired electrons and/or empty subshells, various magnetic moments point in different, random directions so the material will not be magnetic.

Sometimes, be it through spontenaeity or through applied external magnetic fields , electron magnetic moments will line up. Then the material can produce a net total magnetic field, which can potentially be quite strong, as is the case with MRIs.

The magnetic behavior of a material depends on its structure, particularly electron configuration and temperature. At high temperatures, random thermal motion increases the difficulty for electrons to maintain alignment.

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