What is the Difference Between Bar Magnet and Electromagnet

A magnet is an object that produces a magnetic field, which attracts certain materials like iron, nickel, and cobalt. Bar magnets and electromagnets are two types of magnets with different applications.

What is the difference between bar magnet and electromagnet? Bar magnets rely on the alignment of magnetic domains within the material, while electromagnets rely on electric currents to induce magnetism.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Bar Magnet  
      – Definition, Features
2. What is an Electromagnet
      – Definition, Features
3. Similarities Between Bar Magnet and Electromagnet
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Bar Magnet and Electromagnet
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Bar Magnet and Electromagnet
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Bar Magnet, Electromagnet, Permanent Magnet  

Difference Between Bar Magnet and Electromagnet - Comparison Summary

What is a Bar Magnet

Bar magnets have distinct north and south poles, which generate a magnetic field that flows from one pole to the other, forming a continuous magnetic force. This magnetic behavior results from the alignment of magnetic domains within the material, where the spins of atoms align to create a unified magnetic field.

One of the key features of bar magnets is their ability to attract ferromagnetic materials like iron, nickel, and cobalt. When brought near such materials, the magnetic field of the bar magnet induces a temporary magnetization, causing the ferromagnetic substance to be attracted to the magnet’s poles. This property finds widespread use in everyday items like refrigerator magnets, magnetic clips, and magnetic toys.

Bar Magnet

Beyond their utility in household items, bar magnets play a crucial role in scientific experiments and technological advancements. They serve as essential components in electric motors and generators, where the interaction between magnetic fields and electric currents produces motion or electricity. In magnetic compasses, bar magnets provide a reliable means of determining direction by aligning with Earth’s magnetic field, aiding navigation for centuries.

Moreover, bar magnets are central to understanding the principles of magnetism and electromagnetism, forming the basis of Maxwell’s equations and contributing to the development of electromagnetic theory.

What is an Electromagnet

Electromagnets are devices that utilize electricity to produce magnetic fields, essential for a wide array of applications spanning from household appliances to scientific research. Essentially, electromagnets comprise a coil of wire wound around a core material, usually composed of ferromagnetic substances such as iron or steel.

When an electric current flows through the wire, it creates a magnetic field around it, according to Ampere’s law. The direction of this magnetic field follows the right-hand rule, determined by the direction of the current flow. By increasing or decreasing the electric current, the strength of the magnetic field can be controlled, making electromagnets highly versatile.


One of the primary advantages of electromagnets is their ability to be turned on and off rapidly, unlike permanent magnets. This feature makes them indispensable in applications where precise control over the magnetic field is necessary, such as in electric motors, magnetic levitation trains, and MRI machines in the medical field.

Furthermore, electromagnets are widely used in industrial settings for tasks like lifting heavy metallic objects in scrapyards or sorting materials in recycling facilities. Their adjustable strength allows for efficient handling of various loads.

In scientific research, electromagnets play a vital role in experiments involving magnetic fields. Researchers utilize them to manipulate charged particles, conduct magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies, and explore fundamental principles of electromagnetism.

Despite their widespread use, electromagnets do have limitations. They require a constant supply of electricity to maintain their magnetic field, and without it, the magnetic force diminishes rapidly.

Similarities Between Bar Magnet and Electromagnet

  1. Both generate a magnetic field around them.
  2. Both have a north and south pole, with opposite poles attracting and like poles repelling each other.

Difference Between Bar Magnet and Electromagnet


  • A bar magnet is a permanent magnet with a north and south pole, generating a magnetic field without the need for an external power source. On the other hand, an electromagnet is a temporary magnet created by passing an electric current through a coil of wire, wrapped around a core material, usually composed of ferromagnetic substances.

Magnetic Field

  • Bar magnet has a permanent magnetic field due to the alignment of its atoms, while in an electromagnet, magnetic field is generated by an electric current flowing through a coil of wire.


  • The strength of a bar magnet’s magnetic field cannot be easily adjusted, while the strength of an electromagnet’s magnetic field can be controlled by adjusting the amount of current flowing through the coil.

Turning On and Off

  • Bar magnets are always magnetized and cannot be turned off, whereas an electromagnet’s magnetic field can be turned on and off by controlling the flow of electric current.


In summary, bar magnets and electromagnets are two important aspects of magnetism with their own unique features and uses. Bar magnets create a permanent magnetic field through the alignment of atomic magnetic domains, while electromagnets use electric currents to produce magnetism, allowing for control and flexibility. Both types have north and south poles and are crucial in various scientific, industrial, and everyday applications. Bar magnets are simple and dependable, whereas electromagnets offer adjustable strength and the ability to switch on and off.

FAQ: Bar Magnet and Electromagnet

1. What is the advantage of an electromagnet over a bar magnet?

Electromagnets have two advantages over permanent magnets: (1) Electromagnets’ magnetic strength can be increased or lowered. But the same is not possible with permanent magnets. (2) Electromagnets have a higher magnetic power than permanent magnets.

2. Which way are a bar magnet and an electromagnet similar?

They both possess a north and south pole, exhibiting a magnetic field that can interact with other magnetic materials. Additionally, if allowed to rotate freely, both magnets will align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field, demonstrating their responsiveness to external magnetic forces.

3. Are electromagnets always stronger than bar magnets?

Electromagnets can be significantly stronger than bar magnets, especially when a substantial electric current is applied. In fact, some estimates suggest that the largest electromagnets can be up to 20 times stronger than the strongest permanent magnet available.

4. Is a bar magnet a permanent magnet?

Bar magnets are permanent magnets. This is because they possess a constant magnetic field without the need for an external power source.

5. What is the disadvantage of electromagnets?

One disadvantage of electromagnets is that they can heat up rapidly, especially when subjected to high currents for extended periods. This heating effect can lead to inefficiencies and potential damage to the electromagnet or its surrounding components.


1. “Magnetic fields – CCEA.” BBC.
2. “Electromagnet.” Encyclopedia Britannica.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Bar magnet(CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Simple electromagnet2” By Simple_electromagnet.gif: The original uploader was Berserkerus at Russian Wikipedia (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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