How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 668

Would extreme temperatures affect the strength of a magnet? — PL, Columbus, OH
Yes! High temperatures disorder materials and destroy magnetic order. Permanent magnets can be demagnetized by heating them, often to surprisingly modest temperatures. Many household magnets can be spoiled by putting them in a hot oven. Even electromagnets will lose most of their strength at very high temperatures because they rely on iron and iron undergoes several phase transitions at high temperatures that destroy its magnetic order. You can show that iron loses its magnetism at high temperatures by heating a steel nail red hot with a propane torch and then trying to pick it up with a magnet. Be careful not to burn yourself. The hot nail won't stick to the magnet because it won't have any magnetic order. Once the nail cools, its magnetic order will reappear.

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