Is Copper Magnetic? (+ 3 More Things to Know)

No, copper is not magnetic. It is classified as a non-magnetic material because it does not have a strong attraction to magnets and does not retain magnetic properties. 1

Well, this was just a simple answer. But there are few more things to know about this topic which will make your concept super clear.

So let’s dive right into it.

Key Takeaways: Is Copper Magnetic?

  • Copper (especially elemental copper metal) is not considered magnetic because it is a diamagnetic material.
  • Copper can be magnetized under certain conditions, such as when it is exposed to an extremely strong external magnetic field or when it is used in an electromagnetic induction circuit.
  • The purity of copper can affect its magnetic behavior. Impurities, such as certain transition metals or magnetic elements, can disrupt the crystal structure and introduce magnetic behavior in copper.

In case you want to know more about diamagnetic and paramagnetic materials, then this short video will be very helpful to you.

Why is copper not considered magnetic?

Copper is not considered magnetic because it is a non-magnetic material. Magnetic materials, such as iron, nickel, and cobalt, have a property called ferromagnetism, which means they can be magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field and retain that magnetization even after the field is removed. This is due to the alignment of magnetic domains within the material. 2

Copper, on the other hand, is diamagnetic, which means it weakly repels magnetic fields. When a magnetic field is applied to copper, the electrons in the material respond by creating their own magnetic fields, which oppose the external field. As a result, the overall magnetic effect in copper is very weak and is quickly overwhelmed by the stronger external magnetic field.

The lack of magnetic properties in copper is primarily due to its electronic structure. In its atomic form, copper has 29 electrons arranged in different energy levels or orbitals. 3 The arrangement of these electrons does not lead to a net magnetic moment in the material, resulting in its non-magnetic nature.

It’s important to note that while copper is not considered magnetic, it does exhibit other useful electrical properties, which is why it is widely used in electrical wiring, electronics, and other applications where good electrical conductivity is required. 4

Can copper be magnetized under any circumstances?

Copper is generally considered a non-magnetic material, and it does not exhibit ferromagnetic properties like iron, nickel, or cobalt. 5 However, under certain conditions, copper can be magnetized to a very limited extent.

One way to magnetize copper is by subjecting it to an extremely strong external magnetic field. When copper is exposed to such a strong magnetic field, its electrons can experience a phenomenon called paramagnetism. 

Paramagnetic materials are weakly attracted to magnetic fields and exhibit temporary magnetization in the direction of the applied field. However, once the external magnetic field is removed, copper loses its magnetization quickly. 6

Another way to magnetize copper is by using a technique called electromagnetic induction. When a copper wire is part of a closed circuit and a time-varying magnetic field passes through the circuit, an electric current is induced in the wire. 

This induced current creates its own magnetic field, which can interact with external magnetic fields. While this induced magnetic field is temporary and only present when the current is flowing, it can be used in various applications, such as electromagnets and electric motors.

Overall, while copper can exhibit some magnetic behavior under specific circumstances, its magnetic properties are generally very weak and transient. Copper is primarily valued for its excellent electrical conductivity rather than its magnetic properties. 7

Does the purity of copper affect its magnetic behavior?

Yes, the purity of copper can affect its magnetic behavior. Generally, pure copper is considered non-magnetic, but impurities in the copper can alter its magnetic properties to some extent.

Pure copper has a face-centered cubic (FCC) crystal structure, and its electrons are arranged in such a way that the overall magnetic moment is zero. 8 This arrangement results in the non-magnetic nature of pure copper.

However, impurities, such as certain transition metals or magnetic elements, can disrupt the crystal structure and introduce magnetic behavior in copper.

For example, if a small amount of iron or nickel is present as an impurity in copper, it can form localized regions with a different crystal structure that exhibits ferromagnetism. These localized regions are called magnetic inclusions or precipitates. 9

In the presence of a magnetic field, these inclusions can be magnetized, leading to a weak overall magnetic response in the copper material.

The effect of impurities on the magnetic behavior of copper is generally minimal unless the impurity concentration is significant. In most practical applications, copper is purified to a high degree to ensure its non-magnetic properties. However, in specialized cases or when certain impurities are intentionally added, the magnetic behavior of copper can be modified.

Further reading

Is Brass Magnetic?
Is Tin Magnetic?
Is Magnesium Magnetic?
Is Zinc Magnetic?
Why is Nickel Magnetic?

About author

Jay is an educator and has helped more than 100,000 students in their studies by providing simple and easy explanations on different science-related topics. He is a founder of Pediabay and is passionate about helping students through his easily digestible explanations.

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  1. Is Copper Magnetic? (n.d.). Is Copper Magnetic?
  2. 23.5: The Iron Triad: Iron, Cobalt, and Nickel. (2015, January 18). Chemistry LibreTexts.
  3. Electron Configuration for Copper (Cu, Cu+, Cu2+). (n.d.). Electron Configuration for Copper (Cu, Cu+, Cu2+).
  4. Copper conductor – Wikipedia. (2022, March 1). Copper Conductor – Wikipedia.
  6. Paramagnetism – Wikipedia. (2020, January 21). Paramagnetism – Wikipedia.
  7. Copper Facts: Electrical. (n.d.). Copper Facts: Electrical.
  8. Standards & Properties: Metallurgy of Copper-Base Alloys. (n.d.). Standards & Properties: Metallurgy of Copper-Base Alloys.
  9. Eisenbach, M., Stocks, G. M., & Újfalussy, B. (2004, June). Magnetic structure of iron inclusions in copper. Journal of Applied Physics, 95(11), 6684–6686.

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