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What is a magnet made of?

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Quick Answer

Magnets are made from magnetic materials, or metals that are attracted to a magnet and can be magnetized. They come from metal elements or alloys. Magnets are capable of producing magnetic fields, and they attract metals such as cobalt, iron and nickel.

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Full Answer

Different materials produce magnets of varying strengths. Ceramic magnets, also known as ferric magnets, are made of iron oxide in a ceramic composite. Most ceramic magnets are not extremely strong. Examples of this type of magnet are those used in refrigerators. Alnico magnets come from nickel, cobalt and aluminum. They are generally stronger than ceramic magnets. Samarium cobalt magnets are created from the combination of cobalt and samarium, which is a rare-earth element. Neodymium magnets contain boron, iron and neodymium, also a rare-earth element. The strongest naturally occurring magnet is lodestone, a form of magnetite. It attracts even small objects, such as staples and paper clips.

Creating a magnet involves aligning magnetic domains in a piece of metal. This means the magnetic domains must point in the same direction. An example of doing this is rubbing a needle with a magnet, a process that encourages the domains to align. Other methods to create a magnet include passing an electrical current through a metal, holding the magnet in a north-south direction and striking it with a hammer many times or placing it in a strong magnetic field in a north-south direction.

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