On and Off, Off and On: Magnetic Switches
How are magnets used in switches, and why are magnetic-powered electric switches important?
“On-Off” switches are about as ubiquitous as traffic lights, conventional light switches, and stop signs. Around the world, people frequently interact with these everyday and mundane — yet very important — tools. Something as simple as signage helps direct traffic and prevent vehicular accidents, and light switches offer convenience and help save otherwise wasted electricity.
On-off switches are no different than these commonplace objects. More specialized and less common than a standard on-off switch, however, is a magnetic switch. A magnetic switch is an electrical switch designed to make contact or break contact within a magnetic field. While a light switch is what we’d consider as a mechanical switch, magnetic [electrical] switches are specially designed to function in applications when a traditional mechanical switch isn’t efficient or safe.
Neodymium (NdFeB) magnets, known as Rare Earth magnets, serve as a magnet type commonly used in magnetic switches. And if you’ve read our blog at Viona Magnetics before, you’d know that Neodymium Iron Boron permanent magnets are used for a wide variety of applications including sensors, pumps and motors, speakers, and more.
Below, our magnetic experts at Viona Magnetics offer a little more high-level information around our permanent magnet offerings and their use in electrical switches.
Neodymium Magnets to Power Electrical Switches
Magnetic switches have been around as early as the 1930s. These switches function similarly to relays, and either open or close an electrical contact within a magnetic field. Magnetic switches, which are typically sealed in glass, offer lower contact resistance, faster switching speeds and greater longevity compared to their relay counterparts.
Importance and Applications
Sensitive and potentially dangerous situations require careful and innovative engineering, and magnetic switches often find their place when traditional mechanical switches offer too much liability. Put simply, magnetic switches are ideal when systems are designed for no moving elements to make direct contact with the switch itself.
Below are a few common environments (largely industrial) where magnetic switches are preferable compared to mechanical switches:
- Environments with a high potential for explosive activity
- Applications where switches are submerged in liquid
- Automated operations where repetitive contact with a switch could result in premature wear
The ability to control a particular system by opening or closing electrical contact with a magnetic field can be ideal, depending on one’s needs, for both safety and efficiency reasons, and well as general engineering logistics.
The Reed Switch
A common (and hopefully unrelatable) example of a magnetic switch consists of a burglar alarm. Burglar alarms contain a small permanent magnet which is mounted to a door. The magnetic switch is mounted next to it on the frame of the door. If armed, the alarm sounds when the door is opened because the switch is immediately activated.
This type of alarm uses a Reed Switch application, which, in its simplest form, contains two ferromagnetic, flexible metal contacts within an airtight glass envelope.
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From magnet-powered electric switches to commercial-grade magnetic components for consumer electronics and more, contact us today!
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