Learn how to make an electromagnet at home!

Professor Figgy's Science Class from Sweet Paul on Vimeo.

Science Behind the Project: When an electric current flows through a wire, it creates a magnetic field. Each of the electrons (very small, negatively charged particles) that flow to make electric current creates a sort of magnetic tunnel around itself when it moves. When a lot of electrons are moving (like in electricity), a large magnetic field is created around the conductor (the wire) that they are flowing through. The magnetic field around each coil adds up to make one bigger field. This field magnetizes the nail or bolt, which then picks up the paper clips.

You will need:

large carriage bolt or nail

insulated copper wire (about 22- or 24-gauge)

wire cutters (or wire strippers)

battery (large 6V or small 9V battery)

paper clips or other metal objects

  1. Wrap carriage bolt or nail with a continuous, tightly-wound coil of insulated copper wire, tying off each end of the coil to the nail or bolt with a simple knot and leaving a length of wire at each end.
  2. With wire cutters (or wire strippers) carefully remove about 1 inch of insulation from each end of the wire, exposing the copper wire inside.
  3. Attach 1 end of the wire to 1 of the electrodes on the battery.
  4. Then, holding the end of bolt or nail over a pile of paper clips (or other magnet-attracted metal objects), touch the other end of the copper wire to the other electrode on the battery. The flow of current should turn the nail or bolt into a magnet and it should pick up the paper clips.


Photography by Susanna Blavarg

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