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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Define ferromagnet.
  • Describe the role of magnetic domains in magnetization.
  • Explain the significance of the Curie temperature.
  • Describe the relationship between electricity and magnetism.

The information presented in this section supports the following AP® learning objectives and science practices:

  • 2.D.3.1 The student is able to describe the orientation of a magnetic dipole placed in a magnetic field in general and the particular cases of a compass in the magnetic field of the Earth and iron filings surrounding a bar magnet. (S.P. 1.2)
  • 2.D.4.1 The student is able to use the representation of magnetic domains to qualitatively analyze the magnetic behavior of a bar magnet composed of ferromagnetic material. (S.P. 1.4)
  • 4.E.1.1 The student is able to use representations and models to qualitatively describe the magnetic properties of some materials that can be affected by magnetic properties of other objects in the system. (S.P. 1.1, 1.4, 2.2)


Only certain materials, such as iron, cobalt, nickel, and gadolinium, exhibit strong magnetic effects. Such materials are called ferromagnetic    , after the Latin word for iron, ferrum . A group of materials made from the alloys of the rare earth elements are also used as strong and permanent magnets; a popular one is neodymium. Other materials exhibit weak magnetic effects, which are detectable only with sensitive instruments. Not only do ferromagnetic materials respond strongly to magnets (the way iron is attracted to magnets), they can also be magnetized    themselves—that is, they can be induced to be magnetic or made into permanent magnets.

An unmagnetized piece of iron is turned into a permanent magnet using heat and another magnet.
An unmagnetized piece of iron is placed between two magnets, heated, and then cooled, or simply tapped when cold. The iron becomes a permanent magnet with the poles aligned as shown: its south pole is adjacent to the north pole of the original magnet, and its north pole is adjacent to the south pole of the original magnet. Note that there are attractive forces between the magnets.

When a magnet is brought near a previously unmagnetized ferromagnetic material, it causes local magnetization of the material with unlike poles closest, as in [link] . (This results in the attraction of the previously unmagnetized material to the magnet.) What happens on a microscopic scale is illustrated in [link] . The regions within the material called domains    act like small bar magnets. Within domains, the poles of individual atoms are aligned. Each atom acts like a tiny bar magnet. Domains are small and randomly oriented in an unmagnetized ferromagnetic object. In response to an external magnetic field, the domains may grow to millimeter size, aligning themselves as shown in [link] (b). This induced magnetization can be made permanent if the material is heated and then cooled, or simply tapped in the presence of other magnets.

Three schematic diagrams of a piece of iron showing magnetic domains. In Figure a, there are many domains (tiny magnetic regions, each with a north pole and a south pole). Each domain has a slightly different orientation. In Figure b, the domains are larger. Most of the domains are oriented in roughly the same direction. In Figure c, there is a single domain for the entire piece of iron. There is a north pole and a south pole.
(a) An unmagnetized piece of iron (or other ferromagnetic material) has randomly oriented domains. (b) When magnetized by an external field, the domains show greater alignment, and some grow at the expense of others. Individual atoms are aligned within domains; each atom acts like a tiny bar magnet.

Questions & Answers

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Because HE needs someone to dominate the earth (Gen. 1:26)
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Suppose a 0.250-kg ball is thrown at 15.0 m/s to a motionless person standing on ice who catches it with an outstretched arm as shown in [link] . (b) What is his angular velocity if each arm is 5.00 kg? You may treat the ball as a point mass and treat the person's arms as uniform rods (each has a length of 0.900 m) and the rest of his body as a uniform cylinder of radius 0.180 m. Neglect the effect of the ball on his center of mass so that his center of mass remains in his geometrical center.
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Practice Key Terms 7

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