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Magnetic Classification of Materials

Last updated date: 25th May 2024
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What are Magnetic Materials?

Every substance shows some kind of magnetic behaviour at a time. This magnetic behaviour is shown because these substances are made up of charged particles like electrons and protons. It is how the electrons are arranged by themselves in the atoms and how groups of these atoms behave that tell us the magnetic properties of the material. These atoms (or the group of atoms) as a result become a magnetic dipole or a minibar magnet that can align according to the magnetic field that has been applied. The resultant effect of these dipoles determines the magnetic properties of the magnetic materials.

Types of Magnetic Materials

To study the magnetic properties of magnetic materials, we generally keep the material in a uniform magnetic field, and then the magnetic field is varied. Based on their behaviour, the magnetic materials can be classified into three major types:

  • Diamagnetic Materials: 

They are barely magnetized when they are placed in the presence of a magnetic field. Magnetic dipoles here tend to align in opposition to the applied field. As a result, an internal magnetic field is produced by them that opposes the applied field and the substances tend to repel the external force around them.

Some examples of diamagnetic materials are silver, mercury, lead, carbon (graphite and diamond), and copper.

  • Paramagnetic Materials: 

In paramagnetic materials, the magnetic dipoles present in them tend to align along the applied magnetic field and hence reinforcing the applied magnetic field. Paramagnetic substances are attracted by a magnet if it applies a considerable amount of strong field. It is to be kept in mind that such materials are still feebly magnetized and the magnetization will disappear right when the external field is removed. Madame Curie, a very famous Nobel laureate, discovered the magnetization (M) of such materials and this is dependent on the external magnetic field (B) and temperature T by the equation


Here, C stands for Curie constant.

A few examples of paramagnetic materials are as follows: Tungsten, Caesium, Aluminum, Lithium, Magnesium, and Sodium.

  • Ferromagnetic Materials: 

These materials produce a very strong magnetism in the direction of the magnetic field when a magnetic field is applied to it. A domain is a tiny area in ferromagnetic materials with a specific overall spin orientation produced due to quantum mechanical effort. This effect is exchange interaction, that is when some unpaired electrons are under consideration, they interact with each other between two atoms, and they line up themselves in a small region in the direction of the magnetic field. This mechanism of ferromagnetic materials is known as ferromagnetism.

Some examples of ferromagnetic materials are cobalt, iron, nickel, gadolinium, and terbium.

Is Water Diamagnetic in Nature?

Water is known to be a diamagnetic material. Diamagnetic materials are the ones that contain only electron pairs. However, a molecule of water has two bonding pairs of electrons between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms and two lone pairs of electrons present in the oxygen atom. Paramagnetic molecules are said to have at least one pair of unpaired electrons. This occurs when the molecules have an odd number of electrons (like in nitric oxide). It also happens when there are even numbers (like in oxygen) in some molecules. We have seen that water repels the magnet. This happens because whenever there is a presence of any magnetic field near water, a new magnetic field is created by the water itself, thus repelling the magnet. This is called diamagnetism. 

Curie Temperature

Curie Temperature or Curie Point is the temperature at which a particular magnetic substance undergoes a steep change in its magnetic properties. In the case of rocks and minerals, remnant magnetism appears below the Curie temperature for the common mineral magnetite. This temperature is named after the French physicist Pierre Curie, who discovered the laws that relate some magnetic properties to change in temperature in 1895. Below the Curie temperature, atoms that behave as tiny magnets tend to spontaneously align themselves in certain magnetic materials. In ferromagnetic substances, such as pure iron, the atomic magnets are oriented within each microscopic region in the exact direction, so that their magnetic fields strengthen each other. 

Raising the temperature to the Curie temperature to ferromagnetic, antiferromagnetic, and ferrimagnetic substances entirely disrupts the various spontaneous arrangements, and only a weak kind of more general magnetic behaviour, known as paramagnetism, stays. Cobalt has one of the highest Curie points. When the temperature of these materials is brought below their Curie points, magnetic atoms spontaneously realign themselves so that the ferromagnetism, antiferromagnetism, or ferromagnetism revives.


Applications of Magnetism

  • There are many real-life applications of magnetism as magnets are used in the majority of products and mechanisms involved, also they play a vital role in many of these such as electromagnets are used in motors and generators, as well as in power supplies that convert electrical energy from a wall outlet into direct current energy for a wide range of variety of electronic devices present around us. Also, there are many important applications of magnetism in the field medical field such as in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) devices that are now widely used in hospitals and medical centres where high field superconducting magnets (where superconducting coils generate the magnetic field) provide the magnetic field.

  • Permanent magnets are made of magnetic materials that are difficult to demagnetize. Loudspeakers, earphones, electric meters, and small motors all use permanent magnets. A loudspeaker is made up of a wire that transmits an alternating current. When the wire is in the permanent magnet's magnetic field, it is subjected to a force that causes the surrounding air to alternately compress and rarely resulting in a sound wave.

  • Computers which are a very important part of the modern world also comprise magnetic mechanisms such as storage devices and magnetic recording in computers, as well as audio and video systems or machines, are some of the more widely used applications of magnetism. The devices with magnetic storage work majorly on the basis of two stable magnetic states, which are represented by the binary numbers 0 and 1. 

  • A write-head can digitally write in or store data on a floppy disk's dozens of tracks, which can then be accessed or read using a read-head. A write-head generates a strong local magnetic field in the region where the disk's storage track passes. As the disk passes over the read-head, it detects stray magnetic flux from the storage track. The magnetic stripe on the back of plastic debit and credit cards is another example of digital magnetic storage and reading. The magnetic strip contains identification data that can be accessed via an automatic teller machine, for example.

FAQs on Magnetic Classification of Materials

1. Give some properties of diamagnetic material. Also, list some of their uses. 

Some properties of diamagnetic materials are as follows:

  • These substances are always repelled by a magnet.

  • Diamagnetic substances are repelled weakly by the field, and so in a nonuniform field, these substances travel to a weak part from the strong part of the external magnetic field.

  • The atomic dipoles in diamagnetic substances are zero because the net magnetic moment of each atom is zero, which is due to the presence of paired electrons.

  • The magnetic susceptibility of these materials is both negative and small. The relative permeability of diamagnetic materials is slightly less to that of unity.

  • Diamagnetic materials are independent of temperature, and they do not obey Curie’s law.

  • The intensity of diamagnetic materials is negative, very small, and proportional to the magnetizing field.

2. Give some properties of ferromagnetic material.

Ferromagnetic substances possess a mechanism called ferromagnetism. Some properties of ferromagnetic materials are as follows:

  • When a rod made up of a ferromagnetic substance is placed in a magnetic field, it rapidly aligns itself in the direction of the magnetic field.

  • The magnetic dipole moment of a ferromagnetic material is large, and it is in the direction of the magnetizing field.

  • A material loses its ferromagnetic property in its liquid and gaseous states.

  • Ferromagnetic materials are attracted by a magnet very strongly.

  • The intensity of magnetization, magnetic susceptibility, and the magnetic flux density of a ferromagnetic material is very large and positive. 

3. What is magnetism and what are magnetic properties?

Magnetism is one of the properties of matter which can be found in numerous other materials present on the Earth which behave as conductors and insulators in different varying forms and degrees. Metallic systems, for example, exhibit either superconducting or magnetic order at low temperatures. The intrinsic magnetic dipole moment of a substance's electrons determines the degree of magnetism. Magnetization is also described as the substance's net magnetic dipole moment per unit volume, and it is usually referred to as the degree of magnetism. Now let’s understand what are the types of magnetic properties. Magnetic properties can be simply said as the individual behaviour of different magnets. There are majorly three types of magnetic properties under which the materials have been classified according to their magnetic behaviour, these three properties have been stated below:

  1. Ferromagnetic

  2. Diamagnetic

  3. Paramagnetic

4. What are the Paramagnetic materials and what are their properties?

Along with the two magnetic properties which are Ferromagnetic and diamagnetic, there is a third magnetic property that is also very important to understand and learn as the majority of materials present on Earth comprise of this magnetic property which is paramagnetic property. Magnetic fields have a very small susceptibility in the case of paramagnetic materials, which means these types of materials are very slightly attracted by them. Also, they do not, however, retain or regain their magnetic properties once the external magnetic field is removed from their sight or range, unlike ferromagnetic materials. Even though most of the elements are paramagnetic in nature, they are classified as 'non-magnetic' because their attractive force is thousands of times a lot weaker than that of the magnetic force present in ferromagnetic material. A few examples of paramagnetic materials are molybdenum, magnesium, tantalum, and lithium.

5. Who discovered the first magnet and why was it named magnet?

Magnes, a shepherd, was the first person to discover a magnet in Ancient Greece. He used to carry a stick with a small piece of iron attached to it when grazing his goats and sheep on a mountain, his stick got caught up with a rock one day, and Magnes struggled hard to free it up. He later noticed that it became difficult to free his stick as the rock was a natural magnet and that it was drawn to the stick's iron tip.

As a result, the natural magnet magnetite was discovered and named after the shepherd. However, some people believe it was first discovered in the city of Magnesia.

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