How to make electricity: Falling Magnet Experiment!

Can we make a magnet fall in slow-motion? Is copper magnetic? How do we make electricity?

All great questions…Let’s find out!

You will need:

  • A straight copper pipe (at least 100cm in length)
  • Small neodymium magnets *adult supervision required*
  • A stopwatch/egg timer *optional*

    A length of copper pipe and a neodymium magnet.

Method:

  • Try holding a magnet against the outside of the copper pipe and let go – it doesn’t stick! That’s because copper is not magnetic.
  • Now try holding the copper pipe upright and drop the magnet through the pipe – the magnet should take several seconds to appear at the bottom of the pipe.
  • You can try timing how long the magnet takes to fall to the floor inside the pipe and outside the pipe with a stopwatch or egg timer.
  • Longer or thicker copper pipe will slow the magnet down even more.

The science bit:

  • Inside everything, there are electrons. If these electrons are facing or moving in a certain way they produce electricity.
  • Copper is not usually magnetic, so when a magnet is brought close to the copper pipe nothing happens. But when a magnet is in motion (when it’s moving) inside the copper pipe the electrons in the magnet pull on the electrons in the copper pipe which creates a small bit of electricity! This electrical energy doesn’t come from nowhere – the magnet has to convert some of its momentum (kinetic/movement energy) into electrical energy, and that’s why the magnet slows down while it’s falling through the copper pipe.
  • We make most of our electricity using large magnets and copper!