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Is Aluminum Magnetic?

More often than not, people ask why aluminum cannot stick to magnet. Although the answer to may be straightforward, there are fundamental aspects that may be confusing.

In this article, we shall explore all the fundamental aspects about aluminum magnetism.  Besides, we will briefly compare magnetism in other metals to aluminum.

Is Aluminum Magnetic or Not?

Aluminum Electron Configuration
Aluminum Electron Configuration

Aluminum in its pure form is a non-magnetic metal. Ideally, this is due to its structure which encompasses the aluminum electron configuration.

However, this situation may be different for aluminum alloys. Remember, aluminum alloys is basically a mixture of aluminum and other metals. Therefore, if you mix aluminum with other ferromagnetic materials, then aluminum alloy may exhibit some magnetic properties.

This is one of the most confusing scenario as you will be left wondering how magnetic aluminum can be. The answer to this mainly lies on the level of purity.

Aluminum Paramagnetic Property

Unlike ferromagnetic materials that are strongly attracted to magnets, paramagnetic property is quite different. Paramagnetic materials are weekly attracted to magnetic field.

In fact, there are many experiments that have been conducted with aluminum foils or cans. During these experiments, you will realize that subjecting aluminum can to strong magnetic field, there will be a slight movement. Ideally, this illustrates aluminum interaction with magnetic field.

Now, coming to the paramagnetic property of aluminum – it is mainly attributed to the crystal structure of aluminum.

Furthermore, comparing ferromagnetic materials to paramagnetic materials, they have virtually similar composition. Paramagnetic materials are characterized by:

  • Unpaired electrons
  • Partially filled energy orbit
  • Existence of dipoles thou they appear misaligned

Putting all thee together, backed with critical analysis, it is important to say that aluminum is not attracted to magnet due to the paramagnetic properties. At the same time, it is critical to note that, aluminum behaves like a “weak magnet”, which is also due to the paramagnetic property.

Paramagnetic vs Ferromagnetic
Paramagnetic vs Ferromagnetic

Aluminum Magnetism vs. Electron Configurations

Electrons form an important part of aluminum structure. Usually, whether you are evaluating the magnetic properties of ferromagnetic material, paramagnetic material or diamagnetic material, the discussion starts from the electron configuration.

Usually, metals with unpaired electrons contributes the spinning which explains the essence of magnetic moment. The direction will determine whether a material will have magnetic moment that eventually leads to magnetism or not.

Aluminum has only one unpaired electron in the p orbital. Together with the crystal structure, aluminum remain weakly attracted to strong magnetic field. This makes aluminum paramagnetic material as we had mentioned earlier.

In most cases, when metal has two unpaired electrons, they are likely to spin in the opposite directions. The net effect will lead to cancelling out the dipole moment.

How to make Aluminum Magnetic

Let’s be straightforward here – you cannon make pure aluminum magnetic. As we had explained earlier, this is due to the crystal structure. This is because aluminum will remain a paramagnetic material.

On the other hand, although you cannot make aluminum magnetic, some modifications make aluminum alloys magnetic.

Magnetization Effect
Magnetization Effect

By adding ferromagnetic magnetic material in pure aluminum, a magnetic can stick on aluminum alloy. To some extent, you can use this to determine whether an aluminum metal is pure or not.

Whenever a magnetic stick to aluminum, it will simply imply the material is not pure. It has some traces of ferromagnetic elements.

While still on the paramagnetic property, it makes sense to say aluminum can become slightly or a weak magnet in the presence of strong magnetic field.

To understand this, let me take you through a short experiment.

Testing Aluminum Weak Magnetic Property

  1. Choose an aluminum pipe
  2. Drop a strong magnet in the aluminum pipe
  3. As the magnet drops in the pipe, it creates small electrical current
  4. At the same time, the process creates a repelling effects that tends to slow down the speed with which the magnet falls

Experiments conducted on this show a development of hues of magnetism. Well, this is attributed the interaction between aluminum dipoles and magnetic field.

Temperature Affecting Magnetic Properties of Aluminum

Like ferromagnetic materials, temperature affect the magnetic properties of aluminum. Remember, when evaluating magnets or ferromagnetic materials, we have what is called Curie temperature or Curie point.

At Curie point, a material loses its magnetic properties. That is, they lose their permanent magnetic properties. Of course, the same applies to paramagnetic materials like aluminum magnetism.

Most experiments point to the facts that aluminum is weakly attracted to magnet or are affected by magnetic field mostly at very low temperatures.

Factors Affecting Aluminum Magnetism

Aluminum magnetism depend on many variables some of which we have already discussed here. However, to emphasize their importance in the aluminum magnetic properties, let’s list and describe each variable:

  • Magnetic Field – It induces magnetic properties on aluminum. As a paramagnetic material, this manifests itself in aluminum by slight attraction to the magnet.
  • Electron configuration – In aluminum atomic structure with only one unpaired electron in the p orbital, it only allows for weak magnetic properties in aluminum that confirms its paramagnetic properties.
  • Crystal structure – Aluminum crystal structure contributes to its non-magnetic properties. The atoms in aluminum are such that they do not allow atoms to align in the magnetic domains. Remember, this magnetic domain alignment is responsible for the magnetic properties.
  • Magnetic susceptibility – The magnetic susceptibility in aluminum is quite low which about 2.2 × 10−5 This explains why aluminum responds slowly to the presence of magnetic field.
  • Magnetic Coating – By coating aluminum by say iron oxide or any other ferromagnetic material, there will some elements of magnetic attraction. However, you must not confuse this by aluminum being magnetic. It is the coating.
  • Induced Current – At times, aluminum can produce electric currents due to changing magnetic field. This is due to a unique phenomenon called electromagnetic induction. Remember, this changing magnetic

Having discussed all these fascinating magnetic properties of aluminum, it will be proper to list some applications. Remember, there are instances where we use aluminum due to its non-magnetic properties. Some common applications include:

  • Electrical and electronic components
  • Magnetic shielding equipment and accessories
  • Non-magnetic tools

FAQs

1. Is Aluminum Foil Magnetic?

Aluminum foil is not magnetic due to inherent property of aluminum. It still exhibits paramagnetic properties.

2. Is Aluminum Can Magnetic?

Like pure aluminum, these aluminum cans exhibit non-magnetic properties. It actually explains why magnetic do not stick on aluminum cans.

3. Can you Induce External Magnetic Field on Aluminum?

Yes you can induce an external magnetic field in aluminum. Actually, most experiments that illustrated aluminum paramagnetic properties are based on inducing magnetic field.

Conclusion

Owing to the unique crystal structure, pure aluminum largely remain a non-magnetic material. However, it is classified a paramagnetic material which makes it exhibit weak magnetic properties.

Lastly, it is worth noting that aluminum alloys may be magnetic depending on the alloying element.

At KDMFAB, we are a trusted company known for fabricating aluminum materials – for all your fabricated metal parts contact us now.

More resources:

Is Steel Magnetic – Source: KDM

Is Copper Magnetic – Source: KDM

Aluminium Sheet Metal Fabrication Solution– Source: KDM

Is Stainless Steel Magnetic?– Source: KDM

 

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