Today one of the most widely used industrial magnets are electromagnets because of their versatility and power-saving capabilities. Unlike permanent magnets, which have a constant magnetic field, electromagnets are only active when a power source is turned on. In most cases, the power source can vary from a generator to the motor on heavy equipment. Electromagnets changed the magnet industry for the better, but how exactly do electromagnets work? In our guide below, our experts explain how electromagnets work: the basics. Read on to learn more.

An electrical current

The primary factor that sets electromagnets apart from every other magnet is, well, electricity. An electromagnet operates based on an electrical current that surrounds a wire or coil, but not just any wire or coil. A straight wire won’t produce a strong magnetic pull, so the wire typically wraps around another rod (solenoid) made of a ferrous material to enhance the magnetism.

The solenoid and wires directly relate to the magnet’s strength

To have a reliable electromagnet, you need three components: a solenoid—or rod—a conductive wire, and a source of electricity. If you were to take one of these factors away, you wouldn’t have an electrical charge nor an electromagnet. The solenoid and wire determine the strength of the magnetic pull. If the wire is loosely wrapped around the rod, you’ll have a low to medium magnetic pull. On the other hand, you’ll get a stronger magnetic field if you wrap the wire tightly.

By wrapping a conductive wire around a piece of metal and providing electricity via a battery, generator, or motor, you’ll have an electromagnet. Though we’ve highlighted the basics of how electromagnets work here, there’s a lot more science behind their properties and capabilities. We merely spared you the physics involved, such as Ampere’s law and Biot–Savart’s law.

If you’re in the market for a new electromagnet, check out Moley Magnetics. We stock everything from scrap yard magnets to permanent magnets to magnetic separators, all of which are applicable in several industries. Our family-owned business takes pride in offering high-quality products, and we refuse to sell anything that doesn’t meet our standards. If you have questions or need assistance choosing your next magnet, contact us today. Our family will be happy to help.