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Question:
Is it possible for magnets to work just as strongly in liquids (for example oil) as they do in the air? Can the strength decrease (if there is one) be determined?



Replies:
Magnetic fields interact with matter similar as in electric fields. You can have a material that 'blocks' the magnetic field or one that transmits it readily. Air does not interact strongly with a magnetic field, so a magnet 'works' -- e.g. seems unimpeded -- in air. However, some materials interact very strongly -- some metals like Iron for instance conducts magnetic fields readily, or can add their own field. Other metals, like aluminum, do not transmit the magnetic field readily. Some fluids -- like water -- do not interact strongly, but others, like special 'ferrofluids', have components in them that interact strongly with magnetic fields. Ferrofluids can even turn solid-like in a magnetic field, but return to a liquid state when not in a strong magnetic field. Typically, liquids by themselves (petroleum distillate oils, vegetable oils, water, common solvents like ethanol or acetone) generally do not interact strongly with magnetic fields. A magnet immersed in them would still project a magnetic field, but given the density of the fluids, things won't move around as quickly as they do in air.

Hope this helps,

Burr Zimmerman



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