What are Electromagnets?

The solenoid is very important in electromagnetic theory since the magnetic field inside the solenoid is practically uniform for a particular current, and is also versatile, inasmuch that a variation of the current can alter the strength of the magnetic field. An electromagnets, based on the solenoid, provides the basis of many items of electrical equipment, examples of which include electric bells, relays, lifting magnets and telephone receivers.

Electric bell

There are various types of electric bell, including the single-stroke bell, the trembler bell, the buzzer and a continuously ringing bell, but all depend on the attraction exerted by an electromagnet on a soft iron armature.

A typical single stroke bell circuit is shown in Fig When the push button is operated a current passes through the coil. Since the iron-cored coil is energised the soft iron armature is attracted to the electromagnet.

The armature also carries a striker which hits the gong. When the circuit is broken the coil becomes demagnetised and the spring steel strip pulls the armature back to its original position. The striker will only operate when the push button is operated.

Electric bell


A relay is similar to an electric bell except that contacts are opened or closed by operation instead of a gong being struck. A typical simple relay is shown in Fig, which consists of a coil wound on a soft iron core.

Electric bell

When the coil is energised the hinged soft iron armature is attracted to the electromagnet and pushes against two fixed contacts so that they are connected together, thus closing some other electrical circuit.

Lifting magnet

Lifting magnets, incorporating large electromagnets, are used in iron and steel works for lifting scrap metal. A typical robust lifting magnet, capable of exerting large attractive forces, is shown in the elevation and plan view of Fig where a coil, C, is wound round a central core, P, of the iron casting.

Over the face of the electromagnet is placed a protective non-magnetic sheet of material, R. The load, Q, which must be of magnetic material is lifted when the coils are energised, the magnetic flux paths, M, being shown by the broken lines.

Lifting magnet

Telephone receiver

Whereas a transmitter or microphone changes sound waves into corresponding electrical signals, a telephone receiver converts the electrical waves back into sound waves. A typical telephone receiver is shown in Fig and consists of a permanent magnet with coils wound on its poles. A thin, flexible diaphragm of magnetic material is held in position near to the magnetic poles but not touching them.

Variation in current from the transmitter varies the magnetic field and the diaphragm consequently vibrates. The vibration produces sound variations corresponding to those transmitted.

Telephone receiver

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Santhakumar Raja

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