12. MOLECULAR THEORY or MAGNETISM
According to W. E. Weber's theory, the molecules of a ferromagnetic metal are small permanent magnets, the axes of which under ordinary conditions are turned indifferently in cvery direction, so that no magnetic polarity is exhibited by the metal as a whole; a magnetic force acting upon the metal tends to turn the axes of the little magnets in one direction, and thus the entire piece acquires the properties of a magnet. If, however, the molecules could turn with perfect freedom, it is clear that the smallest magnetizing force would be sufficient to develop the highest possible degree of magnetization, which is of course not the case. Weber therefore supposed each molecule to be acted on by a force tending to preserve it in its original direction, the position actually assumed by the axis being in the direction of the resultant of this hypothetical force and the applied magnetizing force. Maxwell (Electricity and Magnetism, § 444), recognizing that the theory in this form gave no account of residual magnetization, made the further assumption that if the deflection of the axis of the molecule exceeded a certain angle, the axis would not return to its original position when the deflecting force was removed, but would retain a permanent set. Although the amended theory as worked out by Maxwell is in rough agreement with certain leading phenomena of magnetization, it fails to account for many others, and is in some cases at variance with observed facts. J. A. Ewing (Proc. Roy. Soc., 1890, 48, 342) has demonstrated that it is quite unnecessary to assume either the directive force of Weber, the permanent set of Maxwell, or any kind of frictional resistance, the forces by which the molecular magnets are constrained being simply those due to their own mutual attractions and repulsions. The effect of these is beautifully illustrated by a model consisting of a number of little compass needles pivoted on sharp points and grouped near to one another upon a board, which is placed inside a large magnetizing coil. When no current is passing through the coil and the magnetic field is of zero strength, the needles arrange themselves in positions of stable equilibrium under their mutual forces, pointing in many different directions, so that there is no resultant magnetic moment. This represents the condition of the molecules in unmagnetized iron. If now a gradually increasing magnetizing force is applied, the needles at first undergo a stable defection, giving to the group a small resultant moment which increases uniformly with the force; and if the current is interrupted while the force is still weak, the needles merely return to their initial positions. This illustrates the first stage in the process of magnetization, when the moment is proportional to the field and there is no hysteresis or residual magnetism (see ante). A somewhat stronger held will deflect many of the needles beyond the limits of stability, causing them to turn round and form new stable combinations, in which the direction assumed by most of them approximates to that of the field. The rearrangement is completed within a comparatively small range of magnetizing force, a rapid increase of the resultant moment being thus brought about. When the field is removed, many of the newly formed combinations are but slightly disturbed, and the group may consequently retain a considerable resultant moment. This corresponds to the second stage of magnetization, in which the susceptibility is large and permanent magnetization is, set up. A still stronger magnetizing force has little effect except in causing the direction of the needles to approach still more nearly to that of the field; if the force were infinite, every member of the group would have exactly the same direction and the greatest possible resultant moment would be reached; this illustrates “ magnetic saturation ”-the condition approached in the third stage of magnetization. When the strong magnetizing field is gradually diminished to zero and then reversed, the needles pass from one stable position of rest to another through a condition of instability; and if the field is once more reversed, so that the cycle is completed, the needles again pass through a condition of instability before a position of stable equilibrium is regained. Now the unstable movements of the needles are of a mechanically irreversible character; the energy expended in dissociating the members of a combination and placing them in unstable positions assumes the kinetic form when the needles turn over, and is ultimately frittered down into heat. Hence in performing a cycle there is a waste of energy corresponding to what has been termed hysteresis-loss.
Supposing Ewing's hypothesis to be correct, it is clear that if the magnetization of a piece of iron were reversed by a strong rotating field instead of by a field alternating through zero, the loss of energy by hysteresis should be little or nothing, for the molecules would rotate with the field and no unstable movements would be possible.1 Some experiments by F. G. Baily (Phil. Trans., 1896, 187, 715) show that this is actually the case. With small magnetizing forces the hysteresis was indeed somewhat larger than that obtained in an alternating field, probably on account of the molecular changes being forced to take place in one direction only; but at an induction of about 16,000 units in soft iron and 15,000 in hard steel the hysteresis reached a maximum and afterwards rapidly diminished. In one case the hysteresis loss per cubic centimetre per cycle was 16,100 ergs for B=1 5,900, and only 1200 ergs for B=20,200, the highest induction obtained in the experiment; possibly it would have vanished before B had reached 21,000.2 These experiments prove that actual friction must be almost entirely absent, and, as Baily remarks, the agreement of the results with the previously suggested deduction affords a strong verification of Ewing's form of the molecular theory. Ewing has himself also shown how satisfactorily this theory accords with many other obscure and complicated phenomena, such as those presented by coercive force, differences of magnetic quality, and the effects of vibration, temperature and stress; while as regards simplicity and freedom from arbitrary assumptions it leaves little to be desired.
The fact being established that magnetism is essentially a molecular phenomenon, the next step is to inquire what is the constitution of a magnetic molecule, and why it is that some molecules are ferromagnetic, others paramagnetic, and others again diamagnetic. The best known of the explanations that have been proposed depend upon the magnetic action of an electric current. It can be shown that if a current i circulates in a small plane circuit of area S, the magnetic action of the circuit for distant points is equivalent to that of a short magnet whose axis is perpendicular to the plane of the circuit and whose moment is iS, the direction of the magnetization being related to that of the circulating current as the thrust of a right-handed screw to its rotation. Ferromagnetism was explained by Ampére on the hypothesis that the magnetization of the molecule is due to an electric current constantly circulating within it. The theory now most in favour is merely a development of Ampére's hypothesis, and applies not only to ferromagnetic, but to para magnetics as well. To account for diamagnetism, Weber supposed that there exist within the molecules of 'diamagnetic substances certain channels around which an electric current can circulate Without any resistance. The creation of an external magnetic field H will, in accordance with Lenz's law, induce in the molecule an electric current so directed that the magnetization of the equivalent magnet is opposed to the direction of the field. The strength of the induced current is -HScos0/L, where 0 is the inclination of the axis of the circuit to the direction of the field, and L the coefficient of self-induction; the resolved part of the magnetic moment in the direction of the field is equal to -HS'cos20/L, and if there are n molecules in a unit of volume, their axes being distributed indifferently in all directions, the magnetization of the substance will be-§ -nHS'/L, and its susceptibility ~§ S2/L (Maxwell, Electricity and M agnetism, § 838). The susceptibility is therefore constant and independent of the field, while its negative sign indicates that the substance is diamagnetic. There being no resistance, the induced current will continue to circulate 1 This deduction from Ewing's theory appears to have been first suggested by ]. Swinburne. See Industries, 1890, 289. 2 R. Beattie (Phil. Mag., 1901, 1, 642) has found similar effects in nickel and cobalt. .