The Magnetism of Steel and Its Induced Charge

The Magnetism of Steel and Its Induced Charge

Steel, a common alloy of iron and carbon, is known for its remarkable magnetic properties when exposed to a magnetic field. This phenomenon, often referred to as ferromagnetism, is a result of the arrangement of its atomic and molecular structure. When steel is exposed to a magnetic field, it becomes magnetized and carries an induced charge, allowing it to attract or repel other magnetic materials. In this essay, we will delve into the intriguing world of steel’s magnetism, how it acquires a charge, and the practical applications of these phenomena.

Ferromagnetism in Steel

Steel’s magnetic properties can be attributed to the alignment of its atomic dipoles in the presence of an external magnetic field. At the atomic level, steel consists of iron atoms organized into a crystal lattice structure. Each iron atom has its own magnetic moment, or magnetic dipole, due to the alignment of its electrons. In an unmagnetized steel object, these magnetic moments are randomly oriented, resulting in no net magnetization. However, when a magnetic field is applied, the dipoles align themselves parallel to the field, creating a strong magnet. Thusly, the ferritic steel becomes magnetic when exposed to a magnetic field. When the field is absent the steel no longer performs as a magnet however it retains a slight charge after the exposure.

Hysteresis and Permanent Magnetization

One fascinating aspect of steel’s ferromagnetism is hysteresis. When a piece of steel is magnetized, it retains some of its magnetism even after the external magnetic field is removed. This phenomenon leads to the creation of permanent magnets, which can be used in various applications such as generators, motors, and compass needles. The extent of permanent magnetization depends on the quality of the steel and the strength of the applied magnetic field. The magnetism of steel and its induced charge are created through exposure.

Induced Charge in Magnetized Steel

As steel becomes magnetized, it not only acquires a magnetic moment but also carries an induced charge. This induced charge is a result of the realignment of electrons within the steel, which creates an electric field. When steel is magnetized, the electrons’ motion creates a flow of electric charges, generating an electric field around the material. This induced charge can interact with other charged objects and affect their behavior.

Practical Applications

The magnetism and induced charge in steel have numerous practical applications in various industries.

Some notable examples include:
1. Electromagnets

Steel is often used as the core material in electromagnets. By passing an electric current through a coil wound around a steel core, a magnetic field is induced in the steel, making it a temporary magnet. This is employed in devices like MRI machines and cranes.

2. Magnetic Storage

Steel tapes and disks have been used in magnetic storage devices like cassette tapes and hard drives, where magnetization of the steel is used to store data.

3. Compasses

Steel needles in compasses align with the Earth’s magnetic field, enabling travelers to find their direction.

4. Security Sensors

Induced charge in steel can be utilized in security systems to detect the opening and closing of doors and windows when a magnetized steel piece is nearby.


The magnetism of steel and the charge it carries after being exposed to a magnetic field are fascinating phenomena with a wide range of practical applications. Understanding how steel can be magnetized and the resulting induced charge provides insights into the world of electromagnetism, leading to innovations in technology and everyday applications. Steel’s magnetic properties continue to shape our modern world, from the devices we use to the tools we rely on in various industries.


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