There are three elemental metals that are magnetic:
Compounds and alloys can also be magnetic if they contain iron, cobalt, or nickel. Common magnetic alloys include:
- Many types of steel
- Many types of stainless steel
A magnetic metal, when magnetized, produces a magnetic field. Metals that can be magnetized are described as “ferromagnetic.” In their natural state, these metals are usually not magnetic themselves but will be attracted to objects which produce magnetic fields. When they are magnetized, they become magnets themselves.
When working with any metal, it is important to know if it is ferromagnetic. Sometimes the ferromagnetic properties of an alloy such as steel are incredibly useful for attracting or repelling other materials. But if you want to avoid exerting unnecessary magnetic forces on your materials, you may want to avoid ferromagnetic metals in your project.
What makes a metal magnetic?
If the crystalline structure of the atoms within a piece of metal is aligned so that all of the atoms are facing the same direction, that metal will be magnetic. In most materials, the atoms are not aligned into any sort of pattern.
Only ferromagnetic materials are capable of being magnetized. In their natural state, the atoms of ferromagnetic metals are usually not aligned but will need to be magnetized. When you magnetize a metal you create one of three types of magnets:
- Permanent Magnets
- Temporary Magnets
A permanent magnet is a metal whose crystalline structure has been permanently re-aligned. A temporary magnet is a metal that creates a magnetic field only under certain conditions.
An electromagnet is created by coiling a wire around a ferromagnetic material and running an electrical current through it. This type of magnet only produces a magnetic field as long as the electrical is running. This relationship runs in both directions, too. By moving a magnet through a coiled wire, you can create an electrical current.
Many common metals such as aluminum, copper, brass, gold, silver, titanium, tungsten, and lead are not ferromagnetic. They cannot be made into magnets and will not be attracted to magnetic fields.
Are magnetic metals stronger than non-magnetic metals?
The magnetic properties of a metal have no relationship to the strength or weakness of that metal. Some ferromagnetic metals, such as steel, are among the strongest. Alternatively, other strong metals such as titanium are not ferromagnetic.
There is also an entire category of magnets called “soft” magnets. These are often made with annealed iron or steel, which simply means that they have been physically or chemically altered to reduce their hardness. And many of the softest metals known to us such as lead, gold, and tin are not ferromagnetic.
Can metal detectors detect non-magnetic metals?
Metal detectors will detect non-magnetic metals such as gold, silver, copper, and tin. Only ferromagnetic materials such as iron, cobalt, and nickel are attracted to magnetic fields strongly enough to be truly considered magnetic. However, all metals can be placed into one of three categories:
Paramagnetic and diamagnetic metals have very weak interactions with magnetic fields which cannot be observed by normal human senses but can be detected using metal detectors.
Examples of ways to utilize magnetic metals
The potential applications of magnetic metals are infinite. These enormously versatile materials find themselves embedded somewhere in almost every facet of our daily lives.
Magnets can be used for:
- Temporarily mounting objects to other ferromagnetic material
- Creating a compass
- Building speakers and microphones
- Recording data, video, or audio on tapes or other magnetic data storage systems like hard drives
- Pickups on electric guitars
- Magnetic strips on credit, debit, and other banking cards
- Electric motors
- Moving large pieces of scrap metal, such as cars
- Mag-lev (or “magnetic levitation”) trains
- Generating electricity
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI’s)
When you consider that magnets can attract each other or repel each other depending on their orientation, and also that a magnet can also be used to create electricity when used in conjunction with a conductive wire, the possibilities are truly endless.
How does magnetization affect pricing?
Since ferromagnetic metals that have magnetic properties have those properties due to their atomic and chemical structures, there is no extra cost associated with their pricing. A sheet of ferromagnetic stainless steel will always be ferromagnetic because of its very nature.
If you are in search of a permanent magnet, however, it is likely to affect pricing. Since permanently magnetizing a piece of metal involves extra processing and labor, these materials will often cost more than their non-magnetized counterparts.
Mead Metals can help
If you find yourself in need of magnetic metal for any type of project, Mead Metals is here for you. Our niche is high quality, low volume, specialty metals, and we want to work with you! Get started on your project by requesting a quick quote today.