Why is Nickel Magnetic? (+ 3 Things to Know)

Yes, nickel is magnetic. Nickel is ferromagnetic because it can create its own permanent magnetic field and is attracted to magnets. 1 Nickel, along with iron and cobalt, is one of the most commonly known magnetic materials.

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: Why is Nickel Magnetic?

  • Nickel is magnetic because it has unpaired electrons in its atomic structure.
  • The magnetic strength of nickel is relatively high compared to many other magnetic materials, but not as strong as rare-earth magnets.
  • Temperature affects the magnetic behavior of nickel by influencing its Curie temperature.
  • The magnetic properties of nickel find practical applications in various industries, such as magnetic alloys and materials, electrical equipment and electronics, batteries, permanent magnets, and magnetic coatings.

In case you want to know more about ferromagnetic materials, you can watch this 1 minute video. This video will show you how the ferromagnetic materials behave under magnetic fields.

Explanation: Why is nickel magnetic?

Nickel is magnetic because it has unpaired electrons in its atomic structure, which create a magnetic field. These unpaired electrons align themselves in the presence of an external magnetic field, resulting in the overall magnetic properties of nickel. 2

To understand why nickel is magnetic, we need to delve into its atomic structure. Nickel has 28 electrons distributed across several energy levels or orbitals. The electronic configuration of nickel shows that it has two unpaired electrons. 3

Unpaired electrons possess a property called “spin” which gives rise to their magnetic nature. 4 These unpaired electrons have an inherent magnetic moment, meaning they act like tiny magnets with north and south poles. In the case of nickel, the two unpaired electrons align their spins, creating a net magnetic moment for the atom.

When an external magnetic field is applied to nickel, the unpaired electrons align themselves parallel to the field, strengthening the overall magnetic effect. This alignment occurs due to the interaction between the external magnetic field and the individual magnetic moments of the unpaired electrons.

Overall, the presence of unpaired electrons in its atomic structure allows nickel to exhibit magnetic properties. This phenomenon is known as ferromagnetism, and it is responsible for the magnetic behavior of materials like nickel, iron, and cobalt. 5

How does the magnetic strength of nickel compare to other magnetic materials?

The magnetic strength of nickel is relatively high compared to many other magnetic materials. It is considered a ferromagnetic material, along with iron and cobalt, which means it exhibits strong magnetic properties. However, nickel is not as strong as rare-earth magnets such as neodymium or samarium-cobalt magnets.

Ferromagnetic materials like nickel have the ability to become strongly magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field. The strength of the magnetization, known as the magnetic moment, depends on factors such as the number of unpaired electrons and the crystal structure of the material. 

Nickel possesses four unpaired electrons, which contribute to its magnetic strength. While nickel is a relatively strong magnet, its magnetic properties are surpassed by rare-earth magnets.

Rare-earth magnets are made from alloys of elements like neodymium, samarium, and cobalt, which have a much higher magnetic strength due to their unique atomic structure and arrangement of electrons. 6

These magnets are commonly used in applications where a strong magnetic field is required, such as in electric motors, speakers, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. 7

How does temperature affect the magnetic behavior of nickel?

Temperature affects the magnetic behavior of nickel by influencing its Curie temperature. At temperatures below the Curie temperature, nickel exhibits ferromagnetic behavior and is strongly magnetic. As the temperature increases beyond the Curie temperature, nickel undergoes a phase transition and loses its magnetic properties.

The Curie temperature is the temperature at which a ferromagnetic material undergoes a transition from a ferromagnetic state to a paramagnetic state. For nickel, this transition occurs at approximately 627 K. 8 9 10 11

Below the Curie temperature, the atomic magnetic moments of nickel align in a parallel manner, resulting in a strong overall magnetization. However, as the temperature rises beyond the Curie temperature, the thermal energy disrupts the alignment of the magnetic moments, causing them to become randomly oriented.

This leads to a decrease in the net magnetic moment and a loss of the material’s ferromagnetic properties.

What are some practical applications of nickel’s magnetic properties?

The magnetic properties of nickel find practical applications in various industries. Some of the key applications include:

  • Magnetic alloys and materials: Nickel is often used as a component in magnetic alloys. 12 Nickel-based alloys, such as permalloy and mu-metal, are utilized in the production of magnetic cores for transformers, inductors, and other electromagnetic devices. These alloys exhibit high magnetic permeability, making them efficient for channeling and controlling magnetic fields.
  • Electrical equipment and electronics: Nickel’s magnetic properties are employed in various electrical and electronic applications. It is used in magnetic sensors, magnetic recording heads in hard disk drives, and magnetic shielding to protect sensitive electronic components from external magnetic fields.
  • Batteries: Nickel is commonly used in rechargeable batteries, particularly nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) and nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries. These batteries utilize nickel-based electrodes that can undergo reversible redox reactions, enabling them to store and release electrical energy. 13 14
  • Permanent magnets: Although nickel itself is not typically used as a permanent magnet due to its relatively lower magnetic strength, it can be alloyed with other elements to produce magnetically enhanced materials. Nickel alloys, such as Alnico (aluminum-nickel-cobalt) magnets, offer a balance of magnetic strength and temperature stability, making them suitable for various applications, including electric motors and sensors. 15
  • Magnetic coatings: Nickel can be electroplated onto surfaces to create protective or decorative coatings. Additionally, it is used in the production of magnetic recording media, such as magnetic tapes and magnetic disks.

These are just a few examples of the practical applications of nickel’s magnetic properties. The versatility of nickel makes it valuable in numerous industries that rely on magnetic technologies and materials.

Further reading

Is Silver Magnetic?
Is Gold Magnetic?
Is Titanium Magnetic?
Is Bronze a Compound?
Is Brass a Compound? 

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.

Read more about our Editorial process.


  1. Nickel – Wikipedia. (2016, March 2). Nickel – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel
  2. Is Nickel Magnetic? (n.d.). Is Nickel Magnetic? https://terpconnect.umd.edu/~wbreslyn/magnets/is-nickel-magnetic.html
  3. It’s Elemental – The Element Nickel. (n.d.). It’s Elemental – the Element Nickel. https://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele028.html
  4. Electron magnetic moment – Wikipedia. (2022, September 10). Electron Magnetic Moment – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electron_magnetic_moment
  5. Bu.edu http://physics.bu.edu/py106/notes/MagMaterials.html
  6. Rare-earth magnet – Wikipedia. (2020, March 1). Rare-earth Magnet – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare-earth_magnet
  7. Seong-cheol, P., Chong Sik Lee, L., Seok Min, K., Eu Jene, C., Do Hee, L., & Jung Kyo, L. (2016). Magnetic resonance imaging distortion and targeting errors from strong rare earth metal magnetic dental implant requiring revision. Turkish Neurosurgery. https://doi.org/10.5137/1019-5149.jtn.19327-16.1
  8. Chiaverina, C., & Lisensky, G. (2014, April). Nickel Curie point engine. The Physics Teacher, 52(4), 250–250. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4868949
  9. Legendre, B., & Sghaier, M. (2011, March 20). Curie temperature of nickel. Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry, 105(1), 141–143. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10973-011-1448-2
  10. Nickel Curie point engine. (n.d.). NASA/ADS. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4868949
  11. Kuntzleman, T. S. (2023, June 7). Estimation of the Curie Temperature of Nickel Using a Simple Thermodynamic Analysis. Journal of Chemical Education. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.2c01215
  12. Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, I. W. (2012, January 1). NICKEL AND NICKEL COMPOUNDS – Arsenic, Metals, Fibres and Dusts – NCBI Bookshelf. NICKEL AND NICKEL COMPOUNDS – Arsenic, Metals, Fibres and Dusts – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK304378/
  13. Shukla, A. (2001, November 30). Nickel-based rechargeable batteries. Journal of Power Sources, 100(1–2), 125–148. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0378-7753(01)00890-4
  14. Wang, L., Wang, J., Wang, L., Zhang, M., Wang, R., & Zhan, C. (2022, April 26). A critical review on nickel-based cathodes in rechargeable batteries. International Journal of Minerals, Metallurgy and Materials, 29(5), 925–941. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12613-022-2446-z
  15. Alnico – Wikipedia. (2015, September 9). Alnico – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alnico

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top