Atoms and Molecules

Molecules and Chemical Bonds

What makes something magnetic?

As we mentioned just briefly above, electrons have a property called a spin, or spin angular momentum, which can take on two possible values. This property, combined with the fact that electrons are charged particles, dictates that each electron has an associated magnetic moment, called the spin magnetic moment. In a macroscopic object, magnetism, or lack thereof, is determined by whether these spin magnetic moments are all aligned in the same direction. If all of the spin magnetic moments line up in the same orientation, the object will behave as a magnet. If the spin magnetic moments are oriented randomly, the object won’t be magnetic. The trick is that only certain materials have the potential to exhibit magnetism, and we’ll get to that next.


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