Magnetic Force on a Current-Carrying Conductor

Using a neodymium magnet, some paper clips and a battery, you can demonstrate the magnetic force acting on a current-carrying wire while recalling Fleming's left-hand rule. Using the same frame constructed in the previous video, you just need to add a wire with a few bends in between to create a U-shape in the middle as shown in the picture below. A small piece of insulating tape (you can use any adhesive tape) is added to one end of the wire to show the original dangling position of the U-shape before current flows through it. Be sure to leave some space at the end with the insulating tape for you to switch on and off the current by pushing that end in and out.

With the south pole facing up and the current flowing from right to left, the magnetic force acts towards you.
When the insulating tape touches the paper clip, current stops flowing and there is no magnetic force.
With the south pole facing up and the current flowing from right to left, the magnetic force acts away from you.

 

Building a Simple DC Motor

Using material that is easily available, you can build a simple homopolar D.C. motor (one that uses a single magnetic pole. I made the video above to help you do so.

The material used are as follows:

  1. insulated copper wire
  2. paper clips
  3. neodymium magnet
  4. 1.5V AA battery
  5. plastic or wooden block (I used a 4x2 Lego block)
  6. scissors
  7. permanent marker
  8. adhesive tape

The steps involved are:

  1. Attaching the magnet on the side of the battery using a long piece of adhesive tape and sticking both of them onto the Lego block. The polarity of the magnet does not matter.
  2. Next, we need to shape one end of each paper clip so as to make it longer and to make a small loop at the top. The paper clips are then fixed on the ends of the battery using adhesive tape.
  3. Coiling wire can be done with the help of a round cylindrical object such as a marker. Roughly 10-15 coils will do.
  4. The ends of the wire can used to bundle the coils together. Make sure they are tied up tightly.
  5. Since we are using an insulated wire (otherwise the current will just go straight from one paper clip to another without passing through the coils), we need to scrape of the insulation at the ends using either sandpaper or the edge of a pair of scissors.
  6. Using a permanent marker, we can colour one side each end in order to insulate that side. This will prevent current from flowing through the loops for half of every cycle. It has the same effect as that of a commutator.
  7. Finally, we will mount the coils onto the two paper clips and allow the motor to spin.

Do take note that the motor should not be left connected to the battery for too long as it will drain the battery very quickly and generate a lot of heat in the process.

How this can be used for the O-level/A-level syllabus

Teachers can use this as a demonstration that shows the motor effect of a current in a wire placed in a magnetic field, as well as to apply Fleming's left-hand rule.

One can also make an second coil without insulating half the surface of the points of contact with the paper clips to show the importance of the commutator in a DC motor. The coil will simply oscillate to and fro due to the change in direction of the magnetic force on the lower half of the loop every half a turn.

Magnetic Shielding

I made this rather simple video this morning showing a physics demonstration on the effect of magnetic shielding. A paper clip is shown to be attracted to a magnet. A series of objects are placed in between, such as a plastic ruler, a steel ruler, a steel bookend, and some coins of different alloys.

It is interesting to note the types of material that provide magnetic shielding and those that do not. There is even a distinction between the types of steel, which is an alloy containing iron. Ferritic steel is magnetic while austenitic steel is not.

The theory behind magnetic shielding is that the flat magnetic material will direct the field lines of the magnet along its plane instead of allowing them to pass through, thus depriving the paper clip of a strong enough magnet field to keep it flying.

Diamagnetism

I didn't want to spend money on buying a piece of pyrolytic graphite and large neodymium magnets so I made do with what I have to make the following video. While diamagnetism is not in the A-level physics syllabus, it's good for students to know that there are other classifications of magnetic materials.

What we study in our syllabus is ferromagnetism, which is exhibited by materials such as iron, cobalt and nickel. Some pencil leads are paramagnetic (weakly attracted to magnets) while others such as the one in the video are diamagnetic (repelled by magnets).

I bought my neodymium magnets from DX.com and the shipping to Singapore takes about 3 weeks, so you might want to factor that time in if you want to get some for your lessons. These magnets are great for other demonstrations such as homopolar motors and Newton's nightmare.

Magnetic Shielding

Materials

  1. Bar magnet
  2. Paper clip (stainless steel)
  3. Plastic clipboard
  4. Steel bookend

Procedure

  1. Before the demonstration, make sure that the paper clip is not already magnetised by touching it with the steel bookend. If it gets attracted to the bookend, get a new paper clip.
  2. For the demonstration, first show that the paper clip can be picked up by a bar magnet in direct contact.
  3. Next, place the bar magnet on the plastic clipboard and try to pick up the paper clip with the clipboard in between them. Show the audience that the paper clip is attracted.
  4. Finally, place the bar magnet on the steel bookend and attempt to pick up the paper clip with the bookend between them. The paper clip will not be picked up.

Science Explained

Iron and steel are examples of ferromagnetic materials that have their magnetic domains aligned with an external magnetic field when placed in that field. This strengthens the magnetic field but also serves to concentrate the field lines within the ferromagnetic material itself, such that very little of the magnetic field penetrates the "shield".

 

Homopolar Motor 2

This video demonstrates how a simple homopolar motor is made using a screw and a small neodymium magnet. The simplest possible motor one can make, it can be used to teach concepts at various levels. For lower secondary students, they can learn about conversion of energy forms while upper secondary students can learn about magnetic forces and Fleming's left-hand rule.

Materials

  1. 10 cm wire
  2. 1.5 V battery
  3. iron screw
  4. neodymium magnet

Procedure

  1. Attach the neodymium magnet to the head of the screw.
  2. Attach the tip of the screw to one end of the battery such that the screw hangs below the battery. The screw will remain attached to the battery as the magnetic force from the neodymium holds them together.
  3. Hold one end of the wire on the top terminal of the battery and allow the other end of the wire to touch the side of the screw or the magnet. Watch the screw spin.

(Link: Alternative design for the homopolar motor)

Electromagnetism Lecture

I enjoy lecturing on topics like Superposition and Electromagnetism in the GCE A-level syllabus as they lend themselves well to the use of fun demonstrations that I can perform in front of the audience.

One of the recent demonstrations that I did was to demonstrate the measurement of the magnetic force acting on a wire and to show that the force can be inverted when the current is reversed. The magnitude of the force can be shown to be consistent with the relationship F = BIl sin theta, where B is the magnetic flux density, I is the current within the wire, l is the length of the wire and theta is the angle between the wire and the magnetic field. This can be illustrated by independently varying one of the 4 variables and observing the change in force.

The setup is also a good for a demonstration to illustrate Fleming's Left-Hand Rule.

For more details, visit http://www.scienses.com/measuring-the-force-on-a-current-carrying-conductor/.

Meanwhile, here's a video I made to show what I did:

Homopolar Motor 1

A homopolar motor is a simple electric motor that does not require the use of a commutator. The electric current flows in a fixed direction within the wires of the motor. The following are instructions on how to construct this simple teaching tool that can be used to demonstrate how a motor works, as well as teach concepts such as Fleming's left-hand rule and \mathbf{F}= I\mathbf{l \times B}.

Materials

  1. Copper wire (about 22 cm)
  2. Small neodymium magnets (1 or 2)
  3. 1.5 V AA-size battery
  4. Base with either another magnet or a iron surface, such as the head of an iron nail

Procedure

  1. Make a V-shaped bend in the middle of the copper wire, with about 0.5 cm on both sides of the V-shape. Bend the copper wire into a rectangular loop using the dimensions shown below. Homopolar Motor Diagram
  2. homopolar motor baseTip: You may use the edge of a wooden block as a guide to bend the copper wires at right angles. A pair of wooden blocks can also be used to flatten the rectangular loop if you press them together tightly with the loop in between.
  3. Mount the neodymium magnet(s) onto the magnet or iron base.
  4. Hook the wires at the base around the magnets.
  5. Place the AA-sized battery with the protruding end on the magnet(s).
  6. Complete the electric circuit by placing the V-shaped end of the rectangular loop onto the flat end of the battery and watch the loop spin.
  7. Be careful not to keep the current flowing for too long as the battery and wire can get very hot.

Science Explained

  1. A force acts on a current if it is placed in a magnetic field. This force is what causes the motor to spin about its axis.
  2. To apply Fleming's left hand rule, observe from the diagram below how the magnetic field bends around the magnet and its direction with respect to the direction of current flow. How do you think the loop will spin?homopolar motor field lines

If you are having difficulty making this version of the homopolar motor, try the other design for the homopolar motor made using a screw.

Electromagnet

Materials

  1. Insulated wire (about 1 m in length)
  2. Iron nail (at least 5 cm in length)
  3. 1.5 V battery
  4. Adhesive tape
  5. Small metal paper clip

Procedure

  1. Test that the iron nail is not already magnetised by trying to pick up the metal paper clip with it.
  2. Strip the two ends of the wire off its insulation. Leave about 1 cm bare on each end.
  3. Coil the wire around the iron nail, pushing each coil tightly together, to make a solenoid. Make sure you leave about 5 cm free at each end of the wire in order to connect the battery to the solenoid.
  4. If there is excess wire, make a second layer of coils around the first layer.
  5. Connect the ends of the wire to the terminals of the battery.
  6. Test the solenoid now by picking up the paper clip.

Oersted's Experiment

Hans Christian Oersted showed that an electric current can affect a compass needle in 1820. This confirms the direct relationship between electricity and magnetism, which in turn, paved the way for further understanding of the two. The direction of the magnetic field can be changed by flipping the wire around, which suggests that the direction of the magnetic field is dependent on the direction of current flow.

Materials

  1. 1.5V Battery
  2. Wire
  3. Compass

Procedure

  1. Place the compass on a horizontal surface.
  2. Connect the wire to both ends of the battery.
  3. Place the middle of the wire directly over the compass, parallel to the initial orientation of the needle.
  4. Observe the needle deflect to one direction.
  5. Now flip the wire over so the current flows in the opposite direction and place it over the compass again.
  6. The needle will deflect in the other direction.
  7. Additionally, you can place the compass on top of the wire now.

Science Explained

A current will carry with it its own magnetic field. The magnetic field lines form concentric circles around the wire so that the field points in one direction above the wire and the opposite direction below the wire. Using the right-hand grip rule, where one holds his hands as though he is gripping something with his thumb pointing in the direction of current flow, his fingers will curl in a way as to indicate the direction of the magnetic field. This is also the direction in which the needle deflects.