Permanent Magnet

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permanent magnet

[′pər·mə·nənt ′mag·nət]
A piece of hardened steel or other magnetic material that has been strongly magnetized and retains its magnetism indefinitely. Abbreviated PM.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Permanent Magnet


an article of a specific shape (such as a horseshoe or bar) made of previously magnetized ferromagnets or ferrimagnets that are capable of retaining high magnetic induction after removal of the magnetizing field (called hard-magnetic materials). Permanent magnets are widely used as independent sources of a constant magnetic field in electrical engineering, electronic technology, and automation.

The principal physical characteristics of a permanent magnet depend on the nature of the demagnetizing branch in the magnetic hysteresis loop of the material from which the magnet is made. The higher the coercive force Hc and the residual induction Br of the material (see Figure 1)—that is, the greater the magnetic hardness of the material—the more suitable it is for a permanent magnet. The induction of a permanent magnet can be equal to the maximum residual induction Br only when the magnet is a closed magnetic circuit.

Figure 1. Curves of demagnetization (a) and magnetic energy (b) for a ferromagnet: (Br) residual magnetic induction, (Hc) coercive force, (Hd) demagnetizing field, (Ba) induction in the field Hd

A permanent magnet is usually used to produce a magnetic flux in an air gap—for example, between the poles of a horseshoe magnet. The air gap reduces the induction (and the magnetization) of the permanent magnet in the manner of an external demagnetizing field Hd. The magnitude of the field Hd that reduces the residual induction Br to a value Bd depends on the configuration of the permanent magnet. Thus, the magnetic fields produced by permanent magnets may have an induction B < Br. The greatest effectiveness is achieved if the state of the magnet corresponds to the point on the demagnetization curve where the product of B and H is at a maximum, (BH)max—that is, where the magnetic energy per unit volume of material is at a maximum. Among the materials from which permanent magnets are made are alloys based on iron, cobalt, nickel, aluminum and hexagonal ferrites. The newest and most effective materials include ferrimagnetic intermetallic compounds of the rare earths samarium and neodymium with cobalt (such as SmCo5). Such compounds have extremely high values of (BH) max (see Table 1).

Table 1. Main characteristics of materials for permanent magnets (data are averaged)
 Hc(oersteds)Br(gauss)(BH)max × 106 (gauss·oersted)Year of first use
Carbon steel ................5010,0000.261880
Cobalt steel ................2409,2000.91917
Fe-Ni-Al alloy ................4806,1001.051933
Barium hexagonal ferrite ................1,8002,0000.91952
Pt-Co alloy ................4,3006,5009.51958

An essential condition for achieving the highest magnetic characteristics in a permanent magnet is its preliminary magnetization up to a state of magnetic saturation. Another important requirement is the stability of the magnetic characteristics with time (that is, the absence of magnetic aging). Permanent magnets made from materials subject to magnetic aging undergo special treatments (thermal treatment and treatment in a variable magnetic field) to stabilize their condition.


Zaimovskii, A. S., and L. A. Chudnovskaia. Magnitnye materialy [3rd ed.]. Moscow-Leningrad, 1957.
Bozorth, R. Ferromagnetizm. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from English.)
Smit, J., and H. P. J. Wijn. Ferrity. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English.)
Postoiannye magnity: Spravochnik. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963. (Translated from English.)
Rabkin, L. I., S. A. Soskin, and B. Sh. Epshtein. Ferrity. Leningrad, 1968.
Belov, K. P. “Redkozemel’nye magnitnye materialy.” Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, 1972, vol. 106, fasc. 2.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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