New Scientist reports that researchers at the University of Durham have created the world’s first plastic magnet to work at room temperature (previous plastic magnets worked only at extremely low temperatures, typically measurable in double-digit Kelvins).
I’m sure I’m likely to be corrected on some minor point by any of the physicists who read this blog, but – for dummies:
Traditional (and naturally occuring) solid-state ferric magnets work by having their composite atoms aligned to all ‘face the same way’: the difference in potential between the ends of the atom causes a magnetic field, and the combined action of these is what makes the magnetism. These can be created by heating the metal (freeing the movement of the atoms) and then exposing it to another magnet (aligning the atoms) before allowing it to cool. More on magnets from Wikipedia.
Conversely, these counterpart plastic magnets are composed of a two-part polymer and the magnetism is induced by the alignment of free radicals within the plastic.
Plastic magnets have applications in computer magnetic storage, mechanical medicinal implants, and other fields.