Playing with magnets is always fun.
Iron filings are a common material used in science experiments to visualize magnetic fields.
When sprinkled on a piece of paper or card placed above a magnet, the iron filings align themselves along the lines of the magnetic field, allowing the field’s shape to be easily seen.
This experiment is a simple and effective way to demonstrate the principles of magnetism and the properties of magnetic fields.
It can be used to observe the effects of different types of magnets and to investigate the strength and direction of magnetic fields.
The experiment is easy to set up and can be used in a classroom or at home.
Warning: Magnets are very hazardous if swallowed. Please keep them away from children who still put everything into their mouths.
- a few strong magnets (neodymium magnets, a rare earth metal, are very strong magnets)
- iron filings
- a piece of paper
- adult supervision
- Put two magnets underneath a piece of paper with 1 inch apart.
- Carefully and slowly shake some iron filings onto the piece of paper above the magnets.
- If the iron filings are too far from the magnets, gently tap or shake the paper to move them closer to above the magnets.
- Observe how the filings move and distribute on the paper.
- Next, remove the iron filings or carefully poor them back into the bottle.
- Flip one of the magnets upside down.
- Repeat steps 1-4 to see what iron filing pattern is formed this time.
Magnet attracts iron and the magnetism can act through many materials such as paper. When iron filings are spread over the magnets, you can see the outline of the magnetic force or the magnetic field.
There are two poles in a magnet: a north pole (N) and a south pole (S).
Opposite poles attract. So when two magnets with opposite poles facing each other (e.g. one N and one S), magnetic forces appear between them. Iron filings are then aligned with the force field between the two magnets.
Same poles repel. So when two magnets with the same poles facing each other (e.g. both are N), each magnet’s force field moves away from the other. Because iron filings are aligned with the force field, they move away from the middle between the two magnets when you gently shake the paper.