Copper is classified as a non-magnetic metal, exhibiting no significant magnetic properties. Its atomic structure lacks unpaired electrons with magnetic moments.
As such, exposing copper to a magnetic field does not induce attraction to the magnet nor generate its own magnetic field.
Why Copper Is Not Magnetic
In the atomic structure of copper, each electron shell is filled resulting in the pairing of all electrons within the atomic orbitals.
This is unlike in magnetic materials where we have unpaired electrons with magnetic moments contributing to the material’s magnetic behavior. Since copper lacks such unpaired electrons it is devoid of the intrinsic magnetic properties present in ferromagnetic materials.
Electromagnetic Induction of Copper
Electromagnetic induction is a phenomenon that generates an electromotive force in a conductor when exposed to a changing magnetic field.
By passing current through copper, it will produce a magnetic field.
As such, copper does not retain permanent magnetism after the external magnetic field is removed. This is because copper lacks intrinsic atomic properties to retain magnetic domains necessary for permanent magnetization.
Magnetic Copper Alloys
Certain copper alloys can exhibit magnetic properties to varying degrees, depending on their composition. These alloys are created by adding magnetic elements to copper and include:
- Copper-Nickel Alloys: When this copper alloy is made with high nickel content, it can exhibit magnetic properties. Noticeable magnetic behavior is observed when using about 44% nickel.
- Copper-Iron Alloys: Using significant amounts of iron in these alloys induces magnetic behavior. This is because iron is ferromagnetic. Such alloys are utilized where copper’s conductivity is desired alongside some degree of magnetism.
- Copper-Manganese Alloys: Manganese has significant magnetic properties and combining with copper in large amounts can induce magnetic behavior to the alloy.
While copper is not magnetic, it can interact with magnetic fields through electromagnetic induction thanks to its excellent electrical conductivity. However, while it can generate temporary magnetic effects through electromagnetic induction, it does not become a permanent magnet.