Magnetic Field Generation

What is a Magnetic Field

Magnetic Field Generation

Magnetic and Electric Field Relationships

Important Uses


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What Generates A Magnetic Field?

Magnetic fields are produced by electric currents, which can be macroscopic currents in wires, or microscopic currents associated with electrons in atomic orbits. Current forms concentric circles around a long wire charged with current. The direction of the magnetic field is perpendicular to the wire, and flows in the direction of the way your fingers would curl if they were wrapped around the wire, with your thumb in the direction of the current. (Right-Hand Rule).

Electric currents produce magnetic fields. These currents may be macroscopic in wires, or microscopic associated with the atomic orbit of electrons.

To further define the electric current, it is the rate of charge flow past a given point in a circuit and is measured in Amperes. Magnetic fields on a macroscopic scale relate to electric currents in a relationship defined by the Biot-Savart Law. If they symmetry of the system is high enough to make for practical application, the relationship can be visualized and calculated with Ampere's Law.

In a bar magnet, the lines of magnetic field form closed lines, and by convention, the field direction flows outward from the North pole and inward to the South pole. A compass will show these lines. In a compass, the needle itself is a permanant magnet, and the north indicator is a magnetic north pole. The north pole of a magnet will line up with the magnetic field, making a suspended compass needle rotate until it also lines up with the field.

North pole pairs with South pole -- unlike poles attract each other. The compass will always point toward the geographic North because it is, in fact, a South pole. The magnetic field lines of the Earth, enter at the geographic North.

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