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Investigating the Factors that Affect the Strength of an Electromagnet.

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Investigating the Factors that Affect the Strength of an Electromagnet

By Danielle Clarke

I am trying to find out whether changing the number of turns in a wire around a nail affects the amount of weights the electromagnet can hold.


The basic idea behind an electromagnet is simple: By running electric current through a wire, you can create a magnetic field.

Electromagnets start with a battery and a wire. The battery produces electrons.

If you attach a wire between the positive and negative terminals of a battery, three things will happen:

  1. Electrons will flow from the negative side to the positive side as fast as they can.
  2. The battery will drain quite swiftly so it is not a good idea to connect the positive and negative terminals to each other directly. You can normally connect a load in the middle of the wire (like a motor, light bulb, radio, and nail) so the electrons can do work that is useful to us.
  3. A small magnetic field is generated in the wire and this is the basis of the electromagnet.

The picture below shoes the shape of a magnetic field surrounding the wire. A circular magnetic field develops around the wire and the field weakens as it moves further away from the wire. The field is perpendicular to the wire and the direction of the field depends on what direction the electric current is flowing through the wire.

...read more.


While conducting the experiment I shall carefully record my results in a clear, accurate table so it is easy to read and gain answers from.

For this investigation I am going to accurately measure the affect that different numbers of coils has on picking up weights. I have decided to alter the coils in sets of tens, as this seems a reasonable difference to give good results. After every ten coils I am going to switch on the electric current and attempt to pick up some weights, starting with one and adding one at a time until they fall off the electromagnet. That is when I will record how many weights that amount of coils can hold. I will repeat this until there is no room for anymore coils on the nail.

For anyone else conducting this experiment, here is a detailed method to be followed:

  • Gather up all equipment and set it up (as shown on previous page)
  • Set your desired voltage and make sure it remains the same throughout.
  • Attach the wire to the positive and negative terminals of the powerpack.
  • Begin wrapping ten coils of wire around the iron nail.
  • REMEMBER! The weight holder counts as one weight so use that first.
  • Switch on the power and hold the first weight to the end of the nail where most coils are.
  • Gradually add more and more weights to the electromagnet until the weights fall down.
  • Record your results in a clear table and don’t forget to turn the power off when it is not being used!
  • Repeat this until you cannot fit another ten coils on the nail and then analyze your results.
...read more.



I believe that I conducted the procedure as accurately as I could and I think this was perhaps the best procedure available for this investigation and the evidence I obtained seems to be decisive as possible. However, instead of using this procedure I could have done the same experiment only instead of using weights I could have used paperclips. This probably could have been easier for the electromagnet to pick up paperclips but I feared that there wouldn’t be enough variance of clips held between each set of coils for me to draw up a precise graph and results table along with accurate justified conclusions. Therefore my results are as accurate as they could be done under classroom circumstances. There aren’t any anomalous results so I think these are a set of good reliable results that anybody interested could use to find out how the number of coils around a 6”nail affects the strength of the electromagnet. To provide additional evidence I suppose I could go a step further in this investigation and perhaps change the core of the electromagnet as well as what it is supporting. I could even do it on a larger scale by using bigger weights and a much larger piece of iron, but I suppose that would ludicrous.

...read more.

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