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Simple Procedure for Making an Electromagnet

written by: Swagatam • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 5/11/2010

Making an electromagnet using just a small length of copper wire and an iron nail can be real fun. In this article, learn how to make an electromagnet through a simple procedure and also study a brief explanation regarding the interrelation between electricity and magnetism.

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    A Brief History of Electromagnetism and Electromagnets

    We all are quite familiar with magnetism and we also know that it is a field of force created around a substance called a magnet. These are particularly known as permanent magnets as magnetism is inherently produced in them and never gets exhausted.

    A magnet consists of two poles at their opposite ends, namely north and south poles, and fundamentally its magnetic force acts over ferromagnetic substances like iron, cobalt, etc. by pulling or attracting these substances towards them within a certain range of distance.

    Due to their common occurrence in our day to day life, we seldom pay any attention towards these truly amazing power elements that are able to produce a continuous and a persistent form of force with absolutely no external help. Until the early 1820s nobody understood the relationship between electricity and magnetism.

    Only during this period of time scientists like Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell discovered that electricity could be produced in a conductor by moving it rapidly within a magnetic field. They were also quick to understand the intriguing relationship between electricity and magnetism in the opposite way. They found that when electricity was passed through a conductor, it produced the same force of magnetism around it like the permanent magnets and it persisted as long as the flow of electricity was maintained through the conductor. The phenomenon was named electromagnetism and thus electromagnets were created. Since then this co-existence of the two forces (electricity and electromagnetism) has been extensively exploited through various different ways.

    Today the very common but indispensable applications of electromagnets can be witnessed almost everywhere. Right from heavy equipment like cranes, electric motors, and transformers to the more sophisticated electronic devices like speakers, relays, transducers, and Hall Effect ICs. All are able to work employing the fundamental principles of electromagnetism.

    Let’s proceed and study simply how to make an electromagnet at home.

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    How to Make an Electromagnet?

    Electromagnet, image Permanent Magnet, Diagram, Image 

    Electromagnets are basically made up of insulated copper wire coils wound firmly over an iron core.

    By supplying an electric voltage into this coil, a strong magnetic field is created across the entire winding. This magnetic field is induced into the iron core to form an electromagnet.

    Making an electromagnet at home can be quite amusing, as after completing the procedures you can not only see it really working but also learn through experiments regarding its practical applications in various fields.

    To build an electromagnet you will require the following ingredients:

    • Super enameled copper wire – Approximately a couple of meter longs, 24 SWG in diameter,
    • Two 1.5 Cells –Size R20 (UM-1dg),
    • One battery holder as per the above given size,
    • An Iron Nail –one that may be as thick and as long as your index finger.
    • PVC Insulation Tape – 1 roll
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    Procedure

    How to Make an Electromagnet, Diagram, Image 

    The building procedure of this electromagnet is pretty simple and is done in the following manner:

    Clean the iron nail using a piece of dry cloth to set it free from any possible rust or dust layers.

    Leaving a certain length of the copper wire free, start winding it over the nail, beginning from the “head” of the nail towards its pointed tip and back, to form alternate layers.

    You may stop winding the moment you see a few inches of wire left, so that the winding now has two free wire ends. Bring the two ends together and twist them so that the winding is not able to loosen itself.

    Cover the winding with a layer of PVC insulation tape to make the whole assembly more compact and rigid.

    With the help of a sharp knife, scrap off to clean the enamel at the free ends of the wire.

    Your electromagnet is now ready.

    By connecting the cleaned free wire ends to the battery pack (made by inserting two cells in the battery holder) the nail will be instantly turned into a strong electromagnet capable of lifting small iron objects like iron pins, screws, washers, etc.

    The electromagnetism effect will instantly vanish as soon as you disconnect the battery supply to it.

    Through further modifications and experiments you should be able to study the many other aspects involved with electromagnetism.

    Have further doubts regarding how to make an electromagnet? Your valuable comments are most welcome. (Comments need moderation and may take time to appear.)