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Q & A: Alternating Current and Magnets

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
Why cant you use a wall outlet to make an electromagnet. I did the only problem I found though is it shorts out the circuit. but I think I found a solution to that so ow I am going to make a really strong magnet
- Joey (age 13)
Draper,UT,USA
A:
The reason you can't make an electromagnet using wall current is because the current from the wall alternates (AC). First, it goes one way, then the other. This happens 60 times per second. You actually make an electromagnet that changes its polarity every time the voltage in the wall alternates. In an electromagnet, you want the current to go in 1 direction all the time. For that you need direct current (DC). To get direct current, I would suggest using a 9-volt battery.

I should warn you that using the wall for current can be very dangerous. A simple 9-volt battery should provide you with plenty of current to make a good electromagnet if you make plenty of loops of wire around a nail. An outlet in the wall is 120-volts. That would not only give you a very big shock if you touch the end of the wire, but it would cause the wire to heat up very very hot.


Adam

(published on 10/22/2007)

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