What Devices Use Electromagnets?

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A hand-held portable speaker hooked up to your new smartphone contains a small electromagnet or voice coil inside of it, as do all devices with speakers. The electromagnet translates the electrical current into sounds you can hear by vibrating the paper cone or diaphragm. The current in the electromagnet controls these vibrations that allow you to hear your favorite songs. Electrical devices that require changing currents use electromagnets.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Some everyday devices that have electromagnets inside them include:

  • Microphones, speakers, headphones, telephones and loudspeakers
  • Electric motors and generators
  • Doorbells and electric buzzers
  • Computer hard drives
  • Multiple household appliances

How Electromagnets Function

Electromagnets typically consist of copper wire arranged in a coil around a magnetic metal like iron. An electrical current passes through the wire and creates a magnetic field when juiced with power, centering the magnetic flux on the iron core. Once the current shuts down, the electromagnet ceases to magnetize. By increasing or decreasing the current through the coiled wire, it strengthens or weakens the magnetic field. Permanent magnets don’t have this feature, as they don’t have a current through them and they continuously magnetize at the same level. The controlled electrical current increases the applications of the electromagnet compared with a static and permanent magnet.

Maglev Trains, Hard Drives and MRIs

Electromagnets help maglev trains function and move, but they also help create the magnetic field of a medical magnetic resonance imager to capture images inside the body not viewable by X-ray machines or other means. A miniature electromagnet inside the read-write head, reminiscent of a record player’s arm and needle, magnetizes individual sectors of the magnetic disk and writes the information in binary code to save it. To create the binary code, 0 or 1, the read-write head simply changes direction, driven by the electromagnet. The hard drive uses the same head to interpret the information written to the disk.

Household Electromagnetic Devices

The solenoid valve inside washing machines that turns water off or on is a type of electromagnet. Garbage disposals, microwave ovens and induction cooktops all have electromagnets inside them. Tape recorders, VCRs and DVD players also use electromagnets to record the data.

Transferring Electrical Current

Electric power lines with large gray canisters have electromagnets inside these transformers to step-down the high-voltage current from the power line to a residence or business. The electromagnet inside the gray transformer makes it possible to transfer the electrical current, which is typically a much higher voltage in the power distribution grid. The site receiving electricity gets it at a lower voltage.

References

About the Author

As a journalist and editor for several years, Laurie Brenner has covered many topics in her writings, but science is one of her first loves. Her stint as Manager of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in California's gold country served to deepen her interest in science which she now fulfills by writing for online science websites. Brenner is also a published sci-fi author. She graduated from San Diego's Coleman College in 1972.

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