Magnets are for Learning

Magnets provide a creative, hands-on method for students of all ages to explore scientific concepts. Dowling offers several magnetic experiments for different student levels.

About Magnets

What are magnets made from? How do they work?

Magnetic toys and educational magnets from Dowling can help to answer many of these commonly asked questions about magnets and magnetism. If you have additional questions, please contact us.

Questions & Answers:

What is a magnet?At its most basic level, a magnet is an object that is made of materials that create a magnetic field. Magnets have at least one north pole and one south pole. These principles are explained with many of our teaching magnets.

What is a magnetic field? A magnetic field is the region in space where a magnetic force can be detected. As our science magnet buyers discover, the magnetic field can be measured in terms of strength and direction.

What is magnetism? Magnetism is the force of attraction or repulsion between substances made of certain materials, such as iron, nickel, cobalt, and steel. The force of magnetism, simply put, is due to the motion of electric charges.

What are magnets attracted to? Magnets are attracted to three types of metals only – nickel, iron, and cobalt.

What are some uses for magnets? Magnets are present in most electronic devices, such as our magnet motors. In fact, anything that has a motor uses a magnet. Televisions, computers, fax machines and microwave ovens all operate with magnets. Magnets are used to keep refrigerator doors closed, are mounted on trucks that clean roadways, and are even placed in the stomachs of cows to catch metals! You’ll also find magnets in medical devices to create a magnetic picture, in trains, and in the systems used to slow down roller coasters and subways. More uses of magnets are found every day. Our magnetic science kits provide an ideal introduction to how magnets are used.

What are permanent magnets made of? Today’s permanent magnets are made of alloys. Alloy materials include:
• Aluminum-Nickel-Cobalt (Alnico)
• Neodymium-Iron-Boron (Neodymium magnets or "super magnets" are a member of the rare earth category)
• Samarium-Cobalt (a member of the rare earth category)
• Strontium-Iron (Ferrite or Ceramic)

How are magnets made? Magnets are made from materials that contain nickel, iron, or cobalt. When these materials are exposed to a magnetic field, the structure of the material is actually changed on a microscopic level. The molecules are polarized, or rearranged into lines. When enough of the metal is polarized, it becomes a magnet. Making magnets is possible with Dowling’s magnet science projects and other educational products.

What are magnetic poles? All magnets have points where their magnetic strength is concentrated. Those points are called poles. We label them north and south because suspended magnets orient along north-south planes. On different magnets, like poles repel each other, opposite poles attract.

What is the difference between the north and south poles of a magnet? When suspended or allowed to rotate freely, magnets orient themselves in a north-south direction. The end of a magnet that points to the north is called the north pole. The point that seeks the south is called the south pole.

Is there a simple way to tell which end of a magnet is the north pole? Both poles of a magnet look the same. However, if you place a compass near a magnet, the needle that normally points toward the north pole of the earth moves in the direction of the magnet’s south pole.

Is it true that magnetic fields are stronger closer to the magnets themselves? Yes. The strength of magnetic fields diminishes with distance. This phenomenon can be measured with exponential equations, or explored with magnetism experiments.

What is the difference between permanent magnets and electromagnets? Permanent magnets emit a magnetic field without the need for any external source of power. An electromagnet emits a magnetic field only when an electrical current runs through it. Dowling offers several electromagnets and electromagnet kits to help explore the differences.

Are permanent magnets really permanent? Magnets generally retain their magnetism unless they are stored near power lines, other magnets, or near high temperatures. Over time, magnet materials lose a very small amount of magnetism. For example, Samarium Cobalt magnets may lose about 1% of their magnetism in ten years.

Do magnets get weaker? How? Several factors can weaken the magnetism in a magnet. If a magnet is stored close to heat, strong electrical currents, other magnets, or radiation, it can lose its strength. Additionally, high humidity can corrode neodymium magnets.

Can magnets be made stronger? Once a magnet is fully magnetized, it cannot be made any stronger.

What kind of magnets are the strongest? Rare earth magnets (Neodymium and Samarium Cobalt) are the strongest.

How do I repair my de-magnetized compass? If your compass becomes de-magnetized (points in the wrong direction), place the South Pole of a magnet directly on top of the compass needle. Slowly slide the bar magnet along the red side of the needle, toward the pointed end, and then down the side of the compass. Pull the magnet away and your compass is re-magnetized.

Other Magnetic Facts:

All animals, including humans, have small magnetite crystals in their brains. Scientists believe that animals may navigate or migrate by sensing the pull of the crystals towards the earth’s magnetic poles.

The earth is a big magnet. Liquid metals deep within the earth create convection currents that in turn create magnetic force. It is believed that the magnetic force surrounding the earth makes life possible. Without the "magnetic force field" too much energy would reach us from the sun and would wipe out our atmosphere.

All electricity is made from magnets. When a magnet is spun inside a coil of wire, electrons start to flow from the wire. All power plants use fuel to spin magnets.

Never! Place a magnet near computers, televisions, watches, clocks, tapes, videos or credit cards. It may damage or distort these products.

To learn more about the wonders of magnets, check out our selection of science discovery kits, magnetic building toys and other educational products.

Contact us today with your ideas, your challenges, and your questions. We thank you for taking the time to learn more about us.

Call us at 800-624-6381 or use this form.