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What Metals Are Magnetic?

magnetic metals

What Metals Are Magnetic?

Key Points

  • There are four types of magnetism: superconductor, diamagnetism, paramagnetism, and ferromagnetism.
  • The three naturally occurring elemental metals that are ferromagnetic are iron, nickel, and cobalt.
  • Metal alloys can also exhibit magnetism, depending on the substances included in the alloy.
  • Some non-metals, such as certain types of graphite, liquid oxygen, and boron fullerenes, exhibit paramagnetism or diamagnetism.

Iron, nickel, cobalt, steel, stainless steel, gadolinium, ferrite, alnico, permalloy, magnetite, and dysprosium are all magnetic metals. However, the titular question can’t be answered with a simple list. There are four types of magnetism, each present in different materials. Additionally, the term “metal” has several meanings. Let’s examine the magnetic metals in-depth.

What Is Metal?

The term metal can refer to any substance with high electrical and thermal conductivity. Metals must also offer malleability, ductility, and light reflectivity. However, “metal” can refer to metal elements, metalloids, and metal alloys. 

What Is an Elemental Metal?

An elemental metal is any element on the periodic table that naturally presents itself as a metal. These substances present high density, shiny appearances, high melting points, and electric conductivity. Aside from mercury, all metals are solid at room temperature. They also form positive ions and have metallic bonds. They have these features right out of the ground.

magnetic metals
Cobalt is one of the three magnetic metals.

Examples of elemental metals include iron, copper, aluminum, gold, and silver. Around 75% of the Earth’s elements are metals. The periodic table includes many varieties, like actinide, lanthanide, akali, alkaline-earth, rare, and transition metals.

What Is a Metalloid?

Simply speaking, a metalloid is an element that has features of both metals and non-metals. Some metalloids are shiny like metals, others are dull. Silicon and germanium can be used as semiconductors when certain conditions are met.

However, there are some notable features of metals that metalloids generally lack. For instance, metalloids are not malleable like metals; they are brittle like non-metals and will break when you try to bend them.

What Is a Metal Alloy?

An alloy is formed when a metal is mixed with another metal or non-metal substance. Combining the two creates a solution with some properties of each ingredient. This method is often used to create materials for industrial work and construction, as pure elemental metals tend to be unideal for these purposes.

There are three types of metal alloys: substitutional alloys, interstitial alloys, and a combination of the two former types. In a substitutional alloy, some atoms in the crystal structure are replaced with different ones. In an interstitial alloy, one substance fills the space between the atoms of another. A combination alloy would see a mixture of atomic replacement and gap filling.

magnetic metals
A metal alloy is a substance that merges more than one metal or mixes a metal with other non-metallic elements.

Metal alloys may take features from any substance in the alloy, including magnetism. Therefore, some may be more or less magnetic than the included metals in their natural states.

How Does Magnetism Work?

Magnetism happens when electric charges on the atomic level from two opposing objects are either attracted or repelled by each other. All substances are made of tiny atoms with little electrons that carry an electric charge spinning around a nucleus.

In most items, like paper, rocks, and even people, an equal number of electrons move in either direction. So, the electrons’ charges cancel each other out, and the object’s magnetism is relatively weak. However, in substances that experience strong magnetism, the electrons typically all move in one direction (or mostly). Thus, these materials have a strong magnetic attraction.

What Are the Different Types of Magnetism?

While most people have a clear picture in their mind when they hear the word “magnet,” there are actually four different types of magnetism and one type of anti-magnetism. These classes of magnetism are present in various materials throughout our world and naturally occur in some substances. Let’s examine them.

Type of MagnetismWhat It Means
SuperconductorMagnetic fields strongly repel these substances.
DiamagnetismThese materials are weakly repelled by magnetic fields.
ParamagnetismThis matter type is weakly attracted to magnetic fields.
FerromagnetismThis stuff is strongly attracted to magnetic fields. Ferromagnetic objects are typically what people think of when they think of “magnets.”
AntiferromagnetismThese materials have no magnetism whatsoever. Antiferromagnetism typically occurs only under certain temperatures. Above the Néel temperature, certain antiferromagnetic materials become paramagnetic.

Now, all substances are diamagnetic. So, in that sense, all metals are magnetic. However, that’s not the question you’re asking, we know. You want to know which metals are, specifically, ferromagnetic. Admittedly, not all of them are.

What Are the Types of Magnets?

magnetic metals
Magnets are used in many things, from decorations to industrial machinery and phone chargers.

In addition to four types of magnetism, there are also three types of magnets. These are as follows:

Type of MagnetWhat It Is
Permanent MagnetsThese are naturally occurring materials that don’t lose their magnetism easily. Some may simply have strong magnetism, while others may resist attempting to change it.
Temporary MagnetsWhen exposed to a field, these substances become magnetic and gradually lose their magnetism when removed.
ElectromagnetsThese magnets require an electric current running through wire coils to produce magnetism.

What Is the Curie Point?

The Curie point in science is the temperature at which a substance experiences a drastic change in its magnetic properties, slowly losing its magnetism. Magnetite is a common magnetic mineral with a Curie point around 1,060°F or 580°C. If the temperature exceeds the Curie point, a hunk of magnetite will lose its ferromagnetic properties and become paramagnetic.

Magnetic rocks will generally get their properties from remnant magnetism and will lose their magnetic traits if they are heated above their Curie point.

Which Metals Are Ferromagnetic?

There are only three naturally occurring elemental metals that are ferromagnetic. They are iron, nickel, and cobalt. Alloys made with these substances, such as steel and stainless steel, can become ferromagnetic due to their inclusion in the mixture.

Gadolinium is also ferromagnetic under its Curie temperature, and we often use it in magnetic resonance imaging to improve tissue magnetic sensitivity, which aids diagnostic image quality. Dysprosium is also highly ferromagnetic under its Curie temperature. However, when these metals go above that temperature, they become paramagnetic.

Additionally, we’ve mentioned a few ferromagnetic metal alloys, such as steel and stainless steel. Permalloy, wairakite, and awaruite are other ferromagnetic alloys. Magnetite is another magnetic “metal.” However, this one isn’t actually a metal. It’s formed when iron is oxidated into iron oxide, and its chemical formula is Fe3O4.

Following is a short cheatsheet of some ferromagnetic metals, their chemical formulas, Curie temperatures (if we know them), and their uses.

Material NameChemical CompositionCurie TemperatureCommon Uses
CobaltCo1388 K (2050°F)Electronics, carbon nanotubes
IronFe1043 K (1418°F)Power generators, distributors, nanowires, shape-memory alloys
NickelNi627 K (669°F)Rapid quenching of liquid alloys
GadoliniumGd292 K (66°F)Nuclear reactors, MRI contrasting
DysprosiumDy88 K (-301°F)LASER, phosphor activators, metal halide lamps
SteelFe + C1043 K (1418°F)Industrial materials, construction
Stainless steelFe + Cr1023 K (1382°F)Industrial materials, consumer goods
AwaruiteNi3Fe883 K (1130°F)Meteorite research
WairakiteCaAl2Si4O12 · 2H2OUnknownNone
PermalloyFe + Ni553 K – 872 K (536°F – 1110°F) *Depends on the phaseMicrowaves, single-chip electronics
MagnetiteFe3O4~843 K (1058°F)Early study of magnets
FerriteFe2O3723 K (842°F)Fridge magnets and other permanent magnets
AlNiCoAl + Ni + Co + Fe + Ti + Cu + Nb1113 K (1544°F)Non-corrosive magnets

Are Any Non-Metals Magnetic?

We generally consider being non-magnetic a trait of non-metals. However, some types of graphite are so diamagnetic that when we expose them to appropriately strong magnets, the magnets repel so hard they appear to float. Additionally, liquid oxygen and boron fullerenes are paramagnetic. Finally, fluorographenes and hydroxyl groups can make organic magnets. However, these organic magnets are antiferromagnetic at room temperature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which metals are magnetic?

Iron, nickel, cobalt, steel, stainless steel, gadolinium, ferrite, alnico, permalloy, magnetite, and dysprosium are the most common magnetic metals in the broadest sense of the word. Regarding only elemental metals, you have only three: iron, nickel, and cobalt.

What does it mean to be magnetic?

There are four types of magnetism: superconductors, diamagnetism, paramagnetism, and ferromagnetism. Magnetic fields strongly repel superconductors. Diamagnets have a weak repulsion to magnetic fields—all substances on Earth are diamagnetic. Paramagnets have a weak attraction to magnetic fields, and ferromagnets have a strong attraction to magnetic fields.

Are all substances on Earth diamagnetic?

Yes, all substances on Earth experience some level of diamagnetism…even people.

What are the three types of magnets?

The three types of magnets are permanent, temporary, and electromagnets.

What is the difference between a metal and a metal alloy?

Metals are pure elements, while alloys are mixtures of metal solvents and solutes, creating a new metal substance with unique features of all substances used to create it.

Why do steel, stainless steel, ferrite, alnico, and permalloy not have chemical formulas?

These are not chemical compounds; they are synthetic mixtures. Thus, they do not have a chemical formula.

Are gadolinium contrast dyes safe?

Yes, gadolinium contrast dyes used in magnetic resonance imaging are safe to be injected into the skin. When these substances are injected into the tissues, they make them more magnetic sensitive, making the images captured by the MRI higher quality and with a greater content of information.

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