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Properties of magnets

When you put an iron nail near a magnet, the nail and the magnet are attracted to each other.

A magnet attracts certain materials. It exerts a force on these materials without touching them.

A magnetic material is a material that is attracted to a magnet. Magnets are made from magnetic materials but not all objects made from magnetic material are magnets.

Almost all magnetic materials are metals. The magnetic metals are iron, nickel, cobalt and their alloys. Steel is magnetic because it contains iron.

Bar magnets are normally made out of iron or steel. The iron core of the Earth is a giant magnet!

A non-magnetic material is not attracted to a magnet. Non-magnetic materials can never be turned into magnets. Most materials, including some metals, are non-magnetic!

Wood, glass, water, air, copper and gold are examples of non-magnetic materials.

A horseshoe magnet (orange coloured) attracts an iron bar (grey coloured).
A horseshoe magnet (orange coloured) attracts an iron bar (grey coloured).

A magnet always has two magnetic poles: a north-seeking pole (N) and a south-seeking pole (S) .

The north-seeking pole is usually abbreviated to north pole. If a magnet is freely suspended, its north-seeking pole will point towards geographic North, and the south-seeking pole will point towards geographic South.

A compass needle is a tiny magnet that always points to the North pole of the Earth!

In a bar magnet, the north and south poles are at opposite ends. If a bar magnet is cut into sections, each section has its own north and south pole.

When a bar magnet is cut into three pieces, each piece still has its own north and south pole.
When a bar magnet is cut into three pieces, each piece still has its own north and south pole.

In a horseshoe magnet, the north and south poles are at the ends of the horseshoe. A horseshoe magnet can be thought of as a bar magnet bent into a horseshoe shape.

Two north poles or two south poles of different magnets are called like poles. Like poles repel each other.

A north pole and a south pole of different magnets are called unlike poles. Unlike poles attract each other.

The top two pairs of magnets repel. The bottom pair attract.
The top two pairs of magnets repel. The bottom pair attract.

Magnetic materials are always attracted to magnets. A magnetic material will be attracted to both poles of the magnet.

Only magnets can repel each other. This means that repulsion is a definite way to tell if an unknown material is a magnet.