Glossary of Magnetic Terms


Air Gap

A low permeability gap in the flux path of a magnetic circuit. Often air, but inclusive of other materials such as paint, aluminum, etc.


Anisotropic Magnet

A magnet having a preferred direction of magnetic orientation, so that the magnetic characteristics are optimum in one preferred direction.


Bipolar Magnets

Both poles are on one side


Closed Circuit

This exists when the flux path external to a permanent magnet is confined within high permeability materials that compose the magnet circuit.


Coercive Force, Hc

The demagnetising force, measured in Oersteds, necessary to reduce observed induction, B, to zero after the magnet has previously been brought to saturation.


Curie Temperature, Tc

The temperature at which the parallel alignment of elementary magnetic moments completely disappears, and the material is no longer able to hold magnetisation.


Demagnetisation Curve

The second quadrant of the hysteresis loop, generally describing the behavior of magnetic characteristics in actual use. Also known as the B-H Curve.


Eddy Currents

Circulating electrical currents that are induced in electrically conductive elements when exposed to changing magnetic fields, creating an opposing force to the magnetic flux.Eddy currents can be harnessed to perform useful work (such as damping of movement), or may be unwanted consequences of certain designs, which should be accounted for or minimized.



A magnet, consisting of a solenoid with an iron core, which has a magnetic field existing only during the time of current flow through the coil.


Energy Product

Indicates the energy that a magnetic material can supply to an external magnetic circuit when operating at any point on its demagnetisation curve. Calculated as Bd x Hd, and measured in Mega Gauss Oersteds, MGOe.


Ferromagnetic Material

A material whose permeability is very much larger than 1 (from 60 to several thousand times 1), and which exhibits hysteresis phenomena.



The condition existing in a medium subjected to a magnetising force. This quantity is characterized by the fact that an electromotive force is induced in a conductor surrounding the flux at any time the flux changes in magnitude. The cgs unit of flux is the Maxwell.


Flux Density, B

The magnetic flux per unit area of a section normal to the direction of flux. Also known as magnetic induction. Measured in Gauss, in the cgs system of units.



An instrument that measures the change of flux linkage with a search coil.



Lines of magnetic flux per square centimetre, cgs unit of flux density, equivalent to lines per square inch in the English system, and Webers per square meter or Tesla in the SI system.



An instrument that measures the instantaneous value of magnetic induction, B. Its principle of operation is usually based on one of the following: the Hall effect, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), or the rotating coil principle.


Hysteresis Loop

A closed curve obtained for a material by plotting corresponding values of magnetic induction, B, (on the abscissa) against magnetising force, H, (on the ordinate).


Induction, B

The magnetic flux per unit area of a section normal to the direction of flux. Measured in Gauss, in the cgs system of units.


Intrinsic Coercive Force, Hci

Measured in Oersteds in the cgs system, this is a measure of the materials inherent ability to resist demagnetisation. It is the demagnetisation force corresponding to zero intrinsic induction in the magnetic material after saturation. Practical consequences of high Hci values are seen in greater temperature stability for a given class of material, and greater stability in dynamic operating conditions.


Intrinsic Induction, Bi

The contribution of the magnetic material to the total magnetic induction, B. It is the vector difference between the magnetic induction in the material and the magnetic induction that would exist in a vacuum under the same field strength, H. This relationship is expressed as: Bi = B-H.


Irreversible Loss

Defined as the partial demagnetisation of a magnet caused by external fields or other factors. These losses are only recoverable by re-magnetisation. Magnets can be stabilized to prevent the variation of performance caused by irreversible losses.


Isotropic Magnet

A magnet material whose magnetic properties are the same in any direction, and which can therefore be magnetised in any direction without loss of magnetic characteristics.



A piece of soft iron that is placed on or between the poles of a magnet, decreasing the reluctance of the air gap and thereby reducing the flux leakage from the magnet.


Knee of the Demagnetisation Curve

The point at which the B-H curve ceases to be linear. All magnet materials, even if their second quadrant curves are straight line at room temperature, develop a knee at some temperature. Alnico 5 exhibits a knee at room temperature. If the operating point of a magnet falls below the knee, small changes in H produce large changes in B, and the magnet will not be able to recover its original flux output without re-magnetisation.


Leakage Flux

That portion of the magnetic flux that is lost through leakage in the magnetic circuit due to or air-gaps, and is therefore unable to be used.


Length of air-gap, Lg

The length of the path of the central flux line in the air-gap.


Load Line

A line drawn from the origin of the Demagnetisation Curve with a slope of -B/H, the intersection of which with the B-H curve represents the operating point of the magnet. Also see Permeance Coefficient.


Magnetic Circuit

An assembly consisting of some or all of the following: permanent magnets, ferromagnetic conduction elements, air gaps, electrical currents.


Magnetic Flux

The total magnetic induction over a given area. When the magnetic induction, B, is uniformly distributed over an area A, Magnetic = BA.


Magnetic Flux Density, B

The magnetic flux per unit area of a section normal to the direction of flux. Also known as magnetic induction. Measured in Gauss, in the cgs system of units.


Magnetic Induction, B

The magnetic flux per unit area of a section normal to the direction of flux. Measured in Gauss, in the cgs system of units.


Magnetising Force, H

The magnetomotive force per unit length at any point in a magnetic circuit. Measured in Oersteds in the cgs system.


Magnetomotive Force, F

Analogous to voltage in electrical circuits, this is the magnetic potential difference between any two points.


Maximum Energy Product, BHmax

The point on the Demagnetisation Curve where the product of B and H is a maximum and the required volume of magnet material required to project a given energy into its surroundings is a minimum. Measured in Mega Oersteds, MGOe.


North Pole

That pole of a magnet which, when freely suspended, would point to the north magnetic pole of the earth. The definition of polarity can be a confusing issue, and it is often best to clarify by using "north seeking pole" instead of " north pole" in specifications.


Oersted, Oe

A cgs unit of measure used to describe magnetising force. The English system equivalent is Ampere Turns per Inch, and the SI systems is Ampere Turns per Meter.


Orientation Direction

The direction in which an anisotropic magnet should be magnetised in order to achieve optimum magnetic properties. Also known as the "axis", "easy axis", or "angle of inclination".


Paramagnetic Material

A material having a permeability slightly greater than 1.



The inverse of reluctance, analogous to conductance in electrical circuits.


Permeance Coefficient, Pc

Ratio of the magnetic induction, Bd, to its self demagnetising force, Hd. Pc = Bd / Hd. This is also known as the " load line", "slope of the operating line", or operating point of the magnet, and is useful in estimating the flux output of the magnet in various conditions. As a first order approximation, Bd / Hd = Lm / Lg, where Lm is the length of the magnet, and Lg is the length of an air gap that the magnet is subjected to. Pc is therefore a function of the geometry of the magnetic circuit.


Pole Pieces

Ferromagnetic materials placed on magnetic poles used to shape and alter the effect of lines of flux.


Relative Permeability

The ratio of permeability of a medium to that of a vacuum. In the cgs system, the permeability is equal to 1 in a vacuum by definition. The permeability of air is also for all practical purposes equal to 1 in the cgs system.


Reluctance, R

Analogous to resistance in an electrical circuit, reluctance is related to the magnetomotive force, F, and the magnetic flux by the equation R = F/( Magnetic Flux), paralleling Ohm's Law where F is the magnetomotive force (in cgs units).


Remanence, Bd

The magnetic induction that remains in a magnetic circuit after the removal of an applied magnetising force. If there is an air gap in the circuit, the remanence will be less than the residual induction, Br.


Residual Induction, Br

This is the point at which the hysteresis loop crosses the B axis at zero magnetising force, and represents the maximum flux output from the given magnet material. By definition, this point occurs at zero air gap, and therefore cannot be seen in practical use of magnet materials.


Return Path

Conduction elements in a magnetic circuit which provide a low reluctance path for the magnetic flux.


Reversible Temperature Coefficient

A measure of the reversible changes in flux caused by temperature variations.



The condition under which all elementary magnetic moments have become oriented in one direction. A ferromagnetic material is saturated when an increase in the applied magnetising force produces no increase in induction. Saturation flux densities for steels are in the range of 16,000 to 20,000 Gauss.


Search Coil

A coil conductor, usually of known area and number of turns that is used with a fluxmeter to measure the change of flux linkage with the coil.


South Pole

That pole of a magnet which, when freely suspended, would point opposite to the north magnetic pole of the earth. See North Pole definition.



Exposure of a magnet to demagnetising influences expected to be encountered in use in order to prevent irreversible losses during actual operation. Demagnetising influences can be caused by high or low temperatures, or by external magnetic fields.


Temperature Coefficient

A factor, which describes the change in a magnetic property with change in temperature. Expressed as percent change per unit of temperature.



The practical unit of magnetic flux. It is the amount of magnetic flux which, when linked at a uniform rate with a single-turn electric circuit during an interval of 1 second, will induce in this circuit an electromotive force of 1 volt. Wb = V s = m 2 kg/s 2 A.


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