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What are magnets made of?

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Magnets can be made of four different types of materials: alnico, ferrite, neodymium, or samarium cobalt.

Alnico

Alnico magnet elements: Aluminium Al, Nickel Ni, Cobalt, Co, Iron Fe, and Copper Cu Alnico magnets are made of a combination of aluminium, nickel, cobalt, iron and copper.
Alnico button horseshoe magnet They can be identified by their traditional red coating; all except for a channel horseshoe magnet which is used for industrial uses, so does not require a coating.

For more information on channel horseshoe magnets, see our page: What is a channel horseshoe magnet?

Advantages and disadvantages of magnetic materials  ADVANTAGES  DISADVANTAGES
  • Operates at temperatures as high as 850°C
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Can only be made into horseshoes magnets and long thin cylinder magnets
  • They are self demagnetising. For more information on this, see: Magnets glossary

Ferrite

Ferrite elements: Strontium Sr, oxygen O, Carbon C, and Iron Fe Ferrite is strontium hexaferrite SrO-6 (Fe203), which is an alloy made of strontium carbonate and iron oxide.
Ferrite basic magnetic discs Ferrite magnets are also known as ‘ceramic magnets’ due to their brittle nature being very similar to porcelain.
Flexible magnetic tape One type of ferrite magnet is a flexible magnet. This is where the alloy of strontium carbonate and iron oxide is mixed with rubber to make a magnet which can be coiled into a 6.35mm (0.25″) to 25mm (0.98″) radius without damaging the magnetic abilities of the magnet.

For more information see our section: Flexible magnets

ADVANTAGES  DISADVANTAGES
Advantages and disadvantages of magnetic materials
  • Cheap to manufacture
  • Can work in high temperatures
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Low cost
  • Hard and brittle so can break easily
  • Demagnetises at -10°C to -20°C

Neodymium iron boron (NdFeB)

Neodymium magnet elements: Neodymium Nd, Iron Fe, and Boron B Neodymium magnets are made up of an alloy containing neodymium, iron, and boron.
Neodymium ring magnetic disc They are the most common type of magnet available as they can produce the strongest magnetic field in a very small area due to the materials that make up the magnet being a stronger combination than any other.

Due to the magnetic force they produce, neodymium magnets can be used for any type of magnet from magnetic sweepers to magnetic discs.

ADVANTAGES

DISADVANTAGES

Advantages and disadvantages of magnetic materials
  • Strongest magnet available
  • They corrode quickly, unless they are coated, due to their iron content
  • They start to demagnetise at anything above 80°C

Samarium cobalt (SmCo)

Samarium cobalt magnet elements: Samarium Sm, and cobalt Co Samarium cobalt magnets are an alloy of samarium and cobalt but can sometimes contain a small amount of either iron, copper, hafnium, zirconium, or praseodymium.
Wonkee Donkee says "Samarium cobalt magnets can be known as either SmCo, rare earth cobalt or RECo magnets"
Samarium cobalt internal threaded female pot magnet

Samarium cobalt magnets are usually made into magnetic discs, bar magnets and pot magnets.

ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
Advantages and disadvantages of magnetic materials
  • Work at high temperatures, even at 300°C
  • Highly corrosion resistant so can be used under water
  • Are very brittle magnets so can chip and break easily
  • Expensive due to their cobalt content

Which type should you choose?

Neodymium ring magnetic disc If there is an option of different types of magnetic material to choose from, for example when selecting a magnetic disc, the best type to choose would be a neodymium magnet. This is because this magnet is the most powerful type available so is able to cope with a wider range of tasks than the other magnets.