Sep 13, 2007
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to make a dollar bill smoothie? Well popular science guru Steve Spangler certainly did and with the help of a super powerful neodymium magnet he demonstrates in the video below just how much iron you would get if you were stupid enough to drink the smoothie. The iron is present in certain magnetic inks used to print a fistful of dollars.
There’s iron in them there bills…you might say!
So, now you’ve watched the video, you’re probably wondering, what are neodymium, or rare earth magnets and why is it so much stronger than a standard fridge magnet? Well, unlike conventional ferric or iron magnets, neodymium magnets are composed of iron, boron, and as the name would suggest, neodymium. The general chemical formula for this alloy is Nd2Fe14B which basically means for every 14 iron atoms in the material there are two neodymium atoms and one boron atom. That special blend (pardon the pun), however, means they can be up to about twenty times stronger than conventional ceramic magnets. Check out the HowStuffWorks site for a simplistic explanation of magnetism.
I asked magnetic expert (soon to be) Dr James Stephenson, who has probably forgotten more about magnets than I ever knew, why it is that the neodymium, or neo, magnets are so much stronger. The strength of a permanent magnet is down to how strong are the individual magnetic moments of the atoms from which it is composed and that’s down to how many electrons can be aligned in each atom, he explains.
Put simply, “Rare-earth magnets, also known as nib magnets, are stronger because the individual atomic magnetic moments are stronger and that adds up to a stronger magnetic field overall,” he says. Taken individually, an isolated atom of a rare earth element, such as neodymium, has gaps in its so-called d [electron] f-shell. When Nd is alloyed with boron and iron those gaps get filled up to a maximum of 14 electrons in the f-shell of each Nd atom, this results in a very strong dipole. “In other words,” Stephenson adds, “more electrons means more current and as a result the magnetic field due to each dipole is higher.” So, there you have it.
By the way, it’s not illegal to blend a dollar bill unless you plan on trying to spend it later, but to be on the safe side bring a friend along, not only can you make sure it’s their dollar bill you blend, but you can claim it was their idea when the FBI turn up at the door too!