Understanding how electricity and magnetism are related can be somewhat tricky. Both concepts can be independent (as seen in the electric and magnetic fields). They can also coexist (as seen in electromagnetism).
Based on an experiment conducted by Hans Christian Orsted in 1802, it was concluded that moving electricity produces an associated magnetic field. In electrical wires, this field is often circular, depending on the current’s direction.
Similarly, a changing magnetic field produces an electric current in wires or conductors. To simplify the technicalities between both phenomena, this guide will explain how electricity and magnetism work and how they are related.
Their relationship will also help you better understand electromagnetism (the fusion of both concepts).
How Does Electricity Work?
Electricity simply relies on the movement of electrons. In other words, when you force electrons to move in a particular direction, they generate heat. At this point, the coils in these wires have become magnets.
The concept of electricity can take the form of stationary or dynamic (in motion) charges. Static electricity refers to the accumulation of electrons. When these electrons are in constant motion, electricity becomes dynamic.
To better understand electricity, let’s look at this everyday example involving a switch and a bulb:
You have closed the circuit when you flip a switch to light a bulb. A closed circuit simply means the flow of electricity comes from the wire to power the light.
The circuit becomes open when you flip the same switch to turn off a bulb. This means the wires have easy access to retract their electricity. The same principles work for phone charging or switching a television on or off.
It is also worth mentioning that there are different sources of electricity. Water, wind, sun, and coal can all produce different levels of electricity.
How Do Magnets or Magnetism Work?
When electricity flows in a wire, it generates a magnetic field around the wire. These magnets can also induce charged particles to move and generate electricity. While electricity and magnetism rely on attraction and repulsion to exert their power, they do it differently.
Electricity employs positive and negative charges whereas magnets rely on magnetic monopoles (precisely the North and South pole). Similar poles (North-North or South-South) repel each other while different poles (North-South) attract one another.
A popular example of magnetism can be seen in how a compass needle reacts to the earth’s magnetic field. You can also study the attraction and repulsion that occurs in bar magnets.
What is Electromagnetism?
Electromagnetism simply combines most of the principles of electricity and magnetism. It is the physical interaction among electric current, magnetic moments, and the electromagnetic field they generate.
This field may be static, slowly moving, or wavy. Waves from electromagnetism are known as “light” and obey the laws of optics. The concept was designed to help permanent (strong) magnets produce the appropriate magnetic field to control magnetic flux in electrical applications.
Hence, wire coils get wrapped around a conductor like an iron core, ensuring that as current passes, a magnetic field is generated along the conductor. This conductor determines the flow of the magnetic field from either the North or South poles, creating stability.
How are electricity and magnetism related to our daily life?
Electricity and magnetism combine to form electromagnetism. Without electromagnetism, the world would be in darkness because light or lighting relies on it.
What creates magnetism?
Magnetism is a product of moving electric charges. This magnetic field also moves in the direction of the current.
Can two magnets make electricity?
Yes, two permanent magnets can produce electricity temporarily if they are close enough to attract each other and create collisions.
These collisions will result in sparks if the magnets are very strong.
Magnetism and electricity are more or less intertwined concepts. While one can do without the other, their combination (electromagnetism) has been useful in solving so many electrical problems for humans.
The major difference between both concepts is that within an electrical field, electrons spin randomly, with magnetic forces canceling each other out. However, magnetism favors only a one-way movement even when it generates electricity.
In other words, their arrangement favors movements from the north to the south pole only. Hence, it is limited.
I hope you found this guide helpful. If you would like to know how can create a magnetic generator and why magnets are not a popular source of electricity, see my guide on how to generate electricity using magnets.
Thank you for reading.