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Differences between Hard and Soft Magnetic Materials
Magnetism, the phenomenon by which materials assert an attractive or repulsive force or
influence on other materials, has been known for thousands of years. However, the underlying
principles and mechanisms that explain the magnetic phenomenon are complex and subtle, and
their understanding has eluded scientists until relatively recent times. Many of our modern
technological devices rely on magnetism and magnetic materials; these include electrical power
generators and transformers, electric motors, radio, television, telephones, computers, and
components of sound and video reproduction systems.
Iron, some steels, and the naturally occurring mineral lodestone are well-known examples of
materials that exhibit magnetic properties.
The wide variety of magnetic materials can be rather sharply divided into two groups, the
magnetically soft (easy to magnetize and demagnetize) and the magnetically hard (hard to
magnetize and demagnetize). The distinguishing characteristic of the first group is high
permeability, and it is chiefly this flux-multiplying power of the magnetically soft materials that
fits them for their job in machines and devices. Magnetically hard materials, on the other hand,
are made into permanent magnets; here a high coercivity is a primary requirement because a
permanent magnet, once magnetized, must be able to resist the demagnetizing action of stray
fields, including its own. The materials used for analog and digital magnetic recording can be
regarded as a special category of permanent magnet materials, sometime called semi-hard
magnets. Some other special magnetic materials and magnetic structures are used in other parts
of digital computers.
Examples of Hard Magnetic Materials:
Magnet Steels , Lode stone, High Carbon Steel , ALNICO, Barium and Strontium Ferrites, Rare
Earth Magnets, Exchange Spring Magnets , Nitride Magnets, Cobalt Platinum Magnets.
Exapmles of Soft Magnetic Materials:
Low carbon steel, non-oriented silicon steel , grain-oriented silicon steel , Low Carbon Steel, 6%
Si Steel, Fe-Ni Alloys , Fe-Co Alloys, Amorphous or Non-crystalline Alloys (Metallic Glasses)

Comparison between Soft and Hard Magnetic Materials:

S.No. Hard Magnetic Materials Soft Magnetic Materials
1 Materials which retain their magnetism
and are difficult to demagnetize are
called hard magnetic materials.
These materials retain their magnetism
even after the removal of the applied
magnetic field. Hence these materials
are used for making permanent
magnets. In permanent magnets the
movement of the domain wall is
prevented. They are prepared by
heating the magnetic materials to the
required temperature and then
quenching them. Impurities increase
the strength of hard magnetic materials.
Soft magnetic materials are easy to magnetize
and demagnetize.
These materials are used for making temporary
magnets. The domain wall movement is easy.
Hence they are easy to magnetize. By
annealing the cold worked material, the
dislocation density is reduced and the domain
wall movement is made easier. Soft magnetic
materials should not possess any void and its
structure should be homogeneous so that the
materials are not affected by impurities.
2 They have large hysteresis loss due to
large hysteresis loop area.
They have low hysteresis loss due to small
hysteresis area.
3 Susceptibility and permeability are low. Susceptibility and permeability are high.
4 Coercivity and retentivity values are
Coercivity and retentivity values are less.
5 Magnetic energy stored is high. Since they have low retentivity and coercivity,
they are not used for making permanent
6 They possess high value of BH
Magnetic energy stored is less.
7 The eddy current loss is high. The eddy current loss is less because of high


Uses of Soft Magnetic Materials:
The uses of soft magnetic materials may be categorized as follows:
1. Heavy-duty Flux Multipliers.
These are the cores of transformers, generators, and motors. These machines are often large and
heavy. A material with high working flux density is needed to keep the size and weight down,
and low cost per pound is essential. Therefore iron is the magnetic material of choice. The
industrial name is electrical steel; it is a very low-carbon steel either with no alloying additions
or with up to about 3% of silicon, which primarily acts to increase the electrical resistivity. It is
used in the form of sheets in the thickness range 0.1–1 mm (0.004–0.04 inch). These materials
are used almost exclusively at power frequencies (50 or 60 Hz).
2. Light-duty Flux Multipliers.
These are the cores of small, special-purpose transformers, inductors, etc., used mainly in
electronic equipment. Here the cost of magnetic material is usually secondary to some particular
magnetic requirement. Frequencies may range up to the megahertz region. Nickel–iron alloys
and soft ferrites fall in this class, with metallic alloys used at lower frequencies. Alloy sheet
thicknesses may be as small as 6 mm (0.00025 inch).
3. Microwave System Components.
These comprise soft ferrites and garnets.
Uses of Hard Magnetic Materials:
 Loud Speaker
 Permanent Magnetic motors
 Head Positioner (Computer Hard Disks)
 Force Applications (Attraction)
 Magnetic Levitation
(University of Pennsylvania) Copyright # 2009 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. Published
by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey. All rights reserved. Published simultaneously in Canada