Making Electromagnets With a Nail & Wire

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When making electromagnets with a nail and wire, an iron or steel nail must be paired up with a copper or aluminum wire. Avoid using a battery with too much voltage when making a homemade electromagnet with help from a science teacher in this free video on electromagnets and physics.

Part of the Video Series: Physics & Electromagnetism
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Video Transcript

Hi I'm Steve Jones and I'm going to explain how to make an electromagnet from a piece of wire and a nail. Well the nail has to be the right kind of nail so you have to have a nail made of iron or steel, copper nails won't do. You need copper wire, preferably. You can use aluminum but it is not very common. Most wire is tin copper and it is insulated on the outside with plastic so that is where you need your coil of that and you need some kind of cell or battery. Just be careful and don't get too high of a voltage otherwise you will probably melt your plastic insulation on your copper wire. The first thing to do of course is to take the steel nail and it can be as big as you like or as small as you like, it doesn't matter too much and around the nail you wrap the copper wire. Now starting at one end you simply wrap it around the nail all the way down. Keep going always the same way round. It has got to be always the same way and if you get to the end it doesn't matter just keep wrapping it again, back around the nail and keep going backwards and forwards until you have got a nice large number of turns on that wire. You want the bear ends here, that is take the insulation off and that is what you are going to attach to the cell. You simply put it straight across the cell so it goes from there to there and that is your electromagnet. If you want to switch it on all you do is attach it. If you want to switch it off you take one side off and that is a crude way of switching. You will find that this electromagnet whilst it is an electromagnet it actually very often it becomes magnetic after a while that this whole magnet thing starts to work and this becomes actually magnetic and the steel nail will retain magnetism. If that happens uncoil it and then coil it around the opposite way and you can demagnetize it so that you can start again with your electromagnet. So that is basically how to make an electromagnet out of a common garden nail and some copper wire and a battery.


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