Oxygen is Magnetic? Royal Institute Demonstrating Paramagnetism of Liquid Oxygen
We know oxygen is in the air we breathe, but who would’ve thought that it’s actually magnetic? In this demonstration from the Royal Institute in London, liquid oxygen actually freezes between the grasp of two magnetic poles! This fascinating phenomenon was first discovered by Michael Faraday in 1847, but it still remains a curiosity even today.
The reason liquid oxygen, and technically even gaseous oxygen, holds magnetic properties is because of its unique arrangement of electrons.
In liquid oxygen, each unpaired electron acts almost like a small magnet. Away from the presence of a permanent magnet, these mini-poles are oriented in random directions, but they actually align themselves under the influence of a magnetic field. This causes the entire glob of liquid oxygen to behave as a small magnet. This is why the oxygen stays in place between the two poles of this magnet.
The reason gaseous oxygen doesn’t readily exhibit these same properties is because it has too much kinetic energy. That means it’s harder to align the mini-poles that so easily align in liquid oxygen.
This experiment is a great example of the counter-intuitive nature of science. In our every day experience, oxygen is invisible and has seemingly no significance to us. When condensed into a liquid, however, not only does it display a hint of blue, but also astonishing characteristics like paramagnetism.
Science is simply awesome.
- Understanding Liquid Oxygen (oxygenconcentratorstore.com)
- Dropping charcoal into liquid nitrogen in slow motion (geek.com)