What Are the Uses for Electromagnets?

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Electromagnets and electromagnetism can be used for loud speakers, microphones, metal sorting and electric motors. Find out how to use electromagnets to produce relays 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 tell you something about the uses of electromagnetism. Now in my way of thinking, electromagnetism is an old technology. It's been with us a long time. I mean over two hundred years. And the type of devices that used electromagnetism tend now to be in the process of being replaced by solid state electronics. Integrated circuits and the like. Certainly the first one here, relays, are. Starter motors in cars are not. Sorting metal you can't do with the solid state technology. Loud speakers and microphones, you can't. But many of the old technologies are being replaced by more modern ones. So electromagnetism is a little bit of an old age technology. But there are certain things which are extremely useful. For example, loud speaker or a microphone which is not, which doesn't use electromagnetism is quite unusual. Although smaller and smaller devices are being produced and these are getting less and less electromagnetic in character. When you go to a metal sorting plant, you need a big electromagnetic. So this is one of the major kind of uses of electromagnetism where you want to sort aluminum cans from steel cans and so forth. While the steel is attracted, the aluminum is not. You need an electromagnetic because once you've picked it out, you want to drop it off. You don't want it to stick permanently to your machine. Starter motors in cars, in fact, motors themselves are of course electromagnetic in nature. So any electric motor is electromagnetic. And this in a sense is the future of electromagnetism. Probably in motors, in cars. We're going to see a lot more electric cars in the future. You probably don't realize, but many of the very, very big vehicles actually are diesel electric. That is they have a diesel engine which drives electric motors. And that is the basis of electromagnetism. Relays, these are things which enable you to flick a small switch here and there's a huge bang somewhere else and a very big current works elsewhere. So these kind of devices are very important. In your home, your trip switch is electromagnetic. Your trip switch eventually in the future, I think will be replaced by a solid state device which won't work in exactly the same way. So these are some of the uses of electromagnetism.

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