Why does a nail get magnetized when you stroke it with a magnet?

Question by Oion Akif: Why does a nail get magnetized when you stroke it with a magnet?
What happens to the piece of metal itself when you keep stroking it with a bar magnet? What happens in it?

Best answer:

Answer by TEXAS ROCKS!!!
Electron displacement.

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2 Comments
  1. Reply
    kumorifox May 10, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    The atoms will align themselves with the applied magnetic field. Once the majority of atoms are aligned, they will exert a non-uniform magnetic field themselves, and function as a magnet.

  2. Reply
    oldprof May 10, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Because the nail finds the magnet quite attractive.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.

    When atoms get aligned in material so their individual magnetic poles all point in the same direction, that material becomes what we call a magnet. That bar magnet, for example, has its atoms so aligned. And the sum of the magnetic poles for each and every atom within that bar adds up to the natural magnetism of the bar.

    The nail’s atoms, on the other hand, are helter skelter…pointing in all such directions inside it. So the sum of all its atomic poles adds up to zero, they cancel each other out. The nail is not magnetized. But along comes that attractive bar magnet.

    By stroking (love that word) the bar magnet over the nail, that gets some if not most of the nail’s atoms to line up with the direction of the magnetic flux of the bar magnet. And once the nail’s atoms are aligned, it, too, becomes a magnet because now the sum of all its atomic poles no longer cancels out. It in fact adds up to a magnetic flux around the nail.

    A word about the atomic magnetic poles. Not all atoms have them. But all atoms do have magnetic fields. That results because electron in motion, and all atoms have electrons in motion, emit magnetic fields. But most atoms have their electrons scattered about their nuclei so that no definitive magnetic pole is formed. That’s why we can’t magnetize everything. Only a few elements, like iron, have those poles that can be aligned and sum up to a magnetic flux.

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