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Ferromagnetism is the basic mechanism by which certain materials (such as iron) form permanent magnets, or are attracted to magnets. In physics, several different types of magnetism are distinguished. Ferromagnetism is the strongest type; it is the only type that can produce forces strong enough to be felt, and is responsible for the common phenomena of magnetism encountered in everyday life. One example is refrigerator magnets. The attraction between a magnet and ferromagnetic material is "the quality of magnetism first apparent to the ancient world, and to us today," according to a classic text on ferromagnetism.[1]

All permanent magnets (materials that can be magnetized by an external magnetic field and which remain magnetized after the external field is removed) are either ferromagnetic or ferrimagnetic, as are other materials that are noticeably attracted to them.

Historically, the term ferromagnet was used for any material that could exhibit spontaneous magnetization: a net magnetic moment in the absence of an external magnetic field. This general definition is still in common use. More recently, however, different classes of spontaneous magnetization have been identified[citation needed] when there is more than one magnetic ion per primitive cell of the material, leading to a stricter definition of "ferromagnetism" that is often used to distinguish it from ferrimagnetism.[citation needed] In particular, a material is "ferromagnetic" in this narrower sense only if all of its magnetic ions add a positive contribution to the net magnetization. If some of the magnetic ions subtract from the net magnetization (if they are partially anti-aligned), then the material is "ferrimagnetic".[citation needed] If the moments of the aligned and anti-aligned ions balance completely so as to have zero net magnetization, despite the magnetic ordering, then it is an antiferromagnet. All of these alignment effects only occur at temperatures below a certain critical temperature, called the Curie temperature (for ferromagnets and ferrimagnets) or the Néel temperature (for antiferromagnets).

Among the first investigations of ferromagnetism are the pioneering works of Aleksandr Stoletov on measurement of the magnetic permeability of ferromagnetics, known as the Stoletov curve.


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