Different Magnetism Materials, How different materials react to magnetism

Scientists have a number of different words to describe how materials behave when you put them near a magnet (which is another way of saying when you put them inside a magnetic field). Broadly speaking, we can divide all materials into two kinds called paramagnetic and diamagnetic, while some of the paramagnetic materials are also ferromagnetic. It’s important to be clear what these confusing words actually mean…


Make a sample of a magnetic material and hang it from a thread so it dangles in a magnetic field, and it will magnetize and line itself up so its magnetism is parallel to the field. As people have known for thousands of years, this is how exactly a compass needle behaves in Earth’s magnetic field. Materials that behave this way are called paramagnetic. Metals such as aluminum and most nonmetals (which you might think aren’t magnetic at all) are actually paramagnetic, but so weakly that we don’t notice. Paramagnetism depends on temperature: the hotter a material is, the less it’s likely to be affected by HSMAG magnets.

Different Magnetism Materials

Different Magnetism Materials

In a paramagnetic material there are unpaired electrons; i.e., atomic or molecular orbitals with exactly one electron in them. While paired electrons are required by the Pauli exclusion principle to have their intrinsic (‘spin’) magnetic moments pointing in opposite directions, causing their magnetic fields to cancel out, an unpaired electron is free to align its magnetic moment in any direction. When an external magnetic field is applied, these magnetic moments will tend to align themselves in the same direction as the applied field, thus reinforcing it.


Some paramagnetic materials, notably iron and the rare-Earth metals, become strongly magnetized in a field and usually stay magnetized even when the field is removed. We say materials like this are ferromagnetic, which really just means they’re “magnetic like iron.” However, a ferromagnetic material will still lose its magnetism if you heat it above a certain point, known as its Curie temperature. Iron has a Curie temperature of 770°C (1300°F), while for nickel the Curie temperature is ~355°C (~670°F). If you heat an iron magnet to 800°C (~1500°F), it stops being a magnet. You can also destroy or weaken ferromagnetism if you hit a magnet repeatedly.

A ferromagnet, like a paramagnetic substance, has unpaired electrons. However, in addition to the electrons’ intrinsic magnetic moment’s tendency to be parallel to an applied field, there is also in these materials a tendency for these magnetic moments to orient parallel to each other to maintain a lowered-energy state. Thus, even in the absence of an applied field, the magnetic moments of the electrons in the material spontaneously line up parallel to one another.


We can think of paramagnetic and ferromagnetic materials as being “fans” of magnetism: in a sense, they “like” magnetism and respond positively to it by allowing themselves to be magnetized. Not all materials respond so enthusiastically. If you hang some materials in magnetic fields, they get quite worked up inside and resist: they turn themselves into temporary magnets to resist magnetization and weakly repel magnetic fields outside themselves. We call these materials diamagnetic. Water and lots of organic (carbon-based) substances, such as benzene, behave this way. Tie a diamagnetic material to a thread and hang it in a magnetic field and it will turn so it makes an angle of 180° to the field.

Diamagnetism appears in all materials, and is the tendency of a material to oppose an applied magnetic field, and therefore, to be repelled by a magnetic field. However, in a material with paramagnetic properties (that is, with a tendency to enhance an external magnetic field), the paramagnetic behavior dominates. Thus, despite its universal occurrence, diamagnetic behavior is observed only in a purely diamagnetic material. In a diamagnetic material, there are no unpaired electrons, so the intrinsic electron magnetic moments cannot produce any bulk effect.

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