Need to sort through all that junk in your basement? Why not build an electromagnet to do the job for you. An electromagnet is a special type of magnet that is created when a current flows through a coil of wire. These magnets separate materials that contain iron from those that don’t.
You can build your own electromagnet by watching a demonstration in our latest Making You the Scientist video. A related lab activity from our TpT store helps students investigate the relationship between the number of times a wire is wound around a metal bolt and the strength of the electromagnet. The activity contains detailed instructions and a guide to collecting data, constructing a graph and interpreting the data.
The main advantage of an electromagnet over a permanent magnet is that the strength of the magnetic field can be adjusted by controlling the amount of electric current. Electromagnets are widely used as components of other electrical devices, such as motors, generators, electromechanical solenoids, relays, loudspeakers, hard disks, MRI machines, scientific instruments, and magnetic separation equipment. They are also commonly used for picking up and moving heavy iron objects such as scrap iron and steel.
Even if you don’t have a pressing need for an electromagnet in your home, the process of building and testing one is a great way to experience the scientific process, and will make You the scientist.