This activity demonstrates Lenz's Law, which states that an induced electromotive force generates a current that induces a counter magnetic field that opposes the magnetic field generating the current. In the demonstration, an empty aluminum can floats on water in a tray, such as a Petri dish. Students spin a magnet just inside the can without touching the can. The can begins to spin. Understanding what happens can be explained in steps: first, the twirling magnet creates an alternating magnetic field. Students can use a nearby compass to observe that the magnetic field is really changing. Second, the changing magnetic field permeates most things around it, including the aluminum can itself. A changing magnetic field will cause an electric current to flow when there is a closed loop of an electrically conducting material. Even though the aluminum can is not magnetic, it is metal and will conduct electricity. So the twirling magnet causes an electrical current to flow in the aluminum can. This is called an "induced current." Third, all electric currents create magnetic fields. So, in essence, the induced electrical current running through the can creates its very own magnetic field, making the aluminum can magnetic. This is activity four of "Exploring Magnetism." The guide includes science background information, student worksheets, glossary and related resources.
Resource Published Date:
Tuesday, December 30, 1969 - 19:00
SMD Forum Primary:
Mission Or Program:
30 to 45 minutes
$1 - $5
Individual or Group:
Per group of students
Cues, questions, and advanced organizers
University of California, Berkeley
National Science Education Standards:
Learning Time Comment:
Learning time is estimated.