Many of us know very little about magnets. We recall basic science experiments from elementary school, designed to teach us about the basics of magnetism. Some of us might recall that magnets have two poles. But for many people, we don’t contemplate magnets in our daily lives, nor are we even aware of what a large role they play in our world. Magnet technology has come a long way in the last few decades. In today’s world, magnets have hundreds of uses, including telecommunications, radar systems, computers, satellites, automobiles, and more. We’ll explore are few uses of magnets that the average individual might not be aware of.
Most of us know that magnets are used to pick up certain types of metal. Construction companies frequently use large magnets to pick up dangerous metal debris on construction sites. Sometimes these magnets are high-tech electromagnets and sometimes they are more basic plate magnets that can be suspended from the front of a vehicle or forklift. Vehicle mounted “sweeper” magnets are also used at new home construction sites. For example, a roofing company might roll a sweeper magnet around a homeowner’s yard to pick up any stray nails once the roofing job is done.
Another common industrial use of magnets is in conveyor system. Conveyor magnets can be used to remove metal debris from material on a conveyor belt system. An example of this might be a plastic recycling firm that is moving plastic parts by conveyor to a grinder. If a small piece of ferrous metal is fed into the grinder, it will dull the grinding head. Worse yet, if a larger piece of metal get into the grinder, it will likely break down the entire machine, and could even pose the threat of flying metal debris in the work area. In most plastic recycling facilities, a conveyor magnet will be hung directly above the conveyor belt to pick up any metal debris that might be mixed in with the plastic.
The power of magnets has been harnessed into many high-tech applications, as well. One such high-tech use of magnets can be found in a new type of windows for residential use. A Japanese company, Micro Reactor Systems, has recently introduced a window that will self-darken to provide privacy for the homeowner. Liquid crystal molecules are embedded between two thin layers of glass, and are polarized to react magnetically when a power source is turned on or off. When the power is turned off, the glass is translucent. However, when a low voltage of electricity is turned on, the glass becomes opaque, blocking out light and providing privacy. Though this is a new technology right now and is very expensive, in years to come, it will likely become quite common in both residential and commercial applications.
The uses of magnets are incredibly vast and we have learned so much about how to harness their powers. Magnets are already used in the production of almost every product we use. If you have a cell phone or an automobile, you are relying on magnets for these items to work. Magnets are also widely used in health care. Almost every major hospital in the work has an MRI machine. This important medical test relies on magnets to show us detailed images of the human body. It is amazing how much we know about magnets, however, it’s even more amazing how much we still have to learn. Scientists discover new uses for magnets and new information about magnetic properties every day. While we can’t predict what new inventions or innovations are coming, we can be sure that magnets will continue to play a role in technologies of the future.