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Producing and Measuring Elecrical Quantities
Magnetism and Electromagnetism

Section 2-3 Theories of Magnetism

Weber s Theory. A popular theory of magnetism considers the molecular alignment of the material. This is known as Weber's theory. This theory assumes that all magnetic substances are composed of tiny molecular magnets. Any unmagnetized material has the magnetic forces of its molecular magnets neutralized by adjacent molecular magnets, thereby eliminating any magnetic effect. A magnetized material will have most of its molecular magnets lined up so that the north pole of each molecule points in one direction, and the south pole faces the opposite direction. A material with its molecules thus aligned will then have one effective north pole, and one effective south pole. An illustration of Weber's Theory is shown here, where a steel bar is magnetized by stroking. When a steel bar is stroked several times in the same direction by a magnet, the magnetic force from the north pole of the magnet causes the molecules to align themselves.

Demonstration of Weber's Theory

Domain Theory. A more modern theory of magnetism is based on the electron spin principle. From the study of atomic structure it is known that all matter is composed of vast quantities of atoms, each atom containing one or more orbital electrons. The electrons are considered to orbit in various shells and subshells depending upon their distance from the nucleus. The structure of the atom has previously been compared to the solar system, wherein the electrons orbiting the nucleus correspond to the planets orbiting the sun. Along with its orbital motion about the sun, each planet also revolves on its axis. It is believed that the electron also revolves on its axis as it orbits the nucleus of an atom.

It has been experimentally proven that an electron has a magnetic field about it along with an electric field. The effectiveness of the magnetic field of an atom is determined by the number of electrons spinning in each direction. If an atom has equal numbers of electrons spinning in opposite directions, the magnetic fields surrounding the electrons cancel one another, and the atom is unmagnetized. However, if more electrons spin in one direction than another, the atom is magnetized. An atom with an atomic number of 26, such as iron, has 26 protons in the nucleus and 26 revolving electrons orbiting its nucleus. If 13 electrons are spinning in a clockwise direction and 13 electrons are spinning in a counterclockwise direction, the opposing magnetic fields will be neutralized. When more than 13 electrons spin in either direction, the atom is magnetized. An example of a magnetized atom of iron is shown below.

Magnetic domain theory.



David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015