Magnets are objects that produce magnetic fields and physically attract objects that respond to magnetism, such as pieces of iron. Materials that can become magnetic are known as ferromagnetic materials. Examples of such materials include iron, cobalt, nickel and certain rare earths, such as neodymium.
People use magnets in their everyday lives and have done so for many years. In the distant past, magnets were considered magical or even demonic, things possessed by wizards in order to cast spells. As the industrial age dawned and magnets came into industrial use, common workers became exposed to the unique qualities of these materials and soon they were produced for domestic uses as well for use as industrial magnets.
One simple way that magnets became ubiquitous objects in the lives of common people was in the form of the refrigerator magnet. Millions of kitchens across the world use these magnets to secure important notes, daily schedules and children's drawings to refrigerators and other surfaces. Rather than provoke fear in people, magnets have become so common that people do not even think about the curious forces that make these useful magnets possible.
Many so-called magnets are really just materials that have been magnetized temporarily. These are not to be confused with permanent magnets, which are materials that retain their magnetism for indefinite periods. It is possible to simply rub a ferromagnetic material against a magnet and pass some of the latter's magnet qualities to the former. A permanent magnet, such as an industrial magnet, is composed of a metal or mineral that is magnetic in its natural state. These magnets are discovered in veins of ore.
Ceramic magnets are commonly used as industrial magnets. They are composed of strontium carbonate and iron oxide. They are relatively inexpensive and resist demagnetization well. People also use them in domestic settings.
Flexible magnets are the kind that people use in novelties and as refrigerator magnets. They possess a low magnetic strength that makes them useful and safe around children. The do not have the power to do many of the things that industrial magnets can.
Rare earth magnets are the newest development in magnet technology. These magnets are made from very rare elements, such as neodymium and samarium cobalt. They are actually manufactured and magnetized in an industrial process. While these magnets are very powerful, they are subject to many defects under certain conditions. Cobalt magnets perform more reliably than neodymium magnets.
Magnets see a varied but important use in different settings every day. Industrial magnets are daily involved in processes that make modern life possible and comfortable. Less significant types of magnets allow people to acquire and maintain a basic understanding of this phenomenon on a daily basis.