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Magnetic Field Force Experiment

Magnetism is invisible, but it’s all around us.

There is a giant magnetic field on Earth.

In this experiment, we will see a smaller version of magnetic field.

We will use iron filings to see the magnetic field in 3-dimension.

(Here’s an example on 2-dimensional magnetic force field.)

Magnet attracts iron and the magnetism can act through many materials such as paper, cellophane, plastic or glass..

They spread over the space by aligning themselves with the magnet’s force field.

This is one of my favorite magnetic field experiments!

3D magnetic field experiment showing field lines using iron filings

See 3-Dimensional Magnetic Field

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Warning: Magnets are very hazardous if swallowed.  Please keep them away from children who still put everything into their mouths.

Materials

  • a few strong magnets (neodymium magnets, a rare earth metal, are very strong magnets)
  • iron filings
  • adult supervision

Tools

  • a clear bottle (can be glass or plastic)

Instructions

  1. Tape the strong magnets on the opposite sides of the bottle. Make sure the opposite poles are facing each other (e.g. N with S, or S with N).

    magnetic field experiment equipment, including a glass, packing tape and iron filings
  2. Poor iron filings into the bottle and then close the cap.
  3. Rotate the bottle so that iron filings are stuck on both sides of the bottle where the magnets are.

    closeup of magnet force field formed by iron filings
  4. Observe how the filings move and distribute.
  5. Move the bottle to another position and see how the iron filings move with it.

    3D magnet force field formed by iron filings using strong magnets on the outside of the glass
  6. If you don't have a clear bottle, you can also use a piece of paper or in our case, we used a sheet of cellophane at the beginning. It's also spectacular since you can see it up close.

    See the same 3D magnetic force field using a cellophane, iron filings and strong magnets

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Did you try this project?

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So what you see is the outline of the 3-dimensional magnetic field.

But the magnetic field is not the only force at play here.

There is also gravity.

When you rotate the bottle, you can see the iron filings move around responding to the change in gravitational force.

Iron filings inside glass jar are attracted by two magnets outside of the jar. Magnetic fields experiments.
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