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Re: [Phys-L] magnetic circuits ... was: change in inductance with iron core

The laminations are parallel to the field, so you made a parallel circuit magnetic field. I think not much decrease. Each laminate sheets completes the magnetic circuit. Take and old transformer and go band saw it in half (yes, that is both a noun and a verb). You'll easily see the sheets forming complete loops in the direction of B. Or, if you have the Leybold apparatus, look at those laminated cores carefully. You'll see the same thing.

-----Original Message-----
From: Phys-l <> On Behalf Of Carl Mungan via Phys-l
Sent: Wednesday, May 5, 2021 7:01 AM
To: PHYS-L <>
Cc: Carl Mungan <>
Subject: Re: [Phys-L] magnetic circuits ... was: change in inductance with iron core

Very interesting, and Bernard is quite right that I’ve never heard of this, nor am I aware of any intro textbook that mentions it even briefly.

Two follow-up questions:

1. As I understand it, the reason we laminate the cores in the first place is to reduce eddy current loops which cause energy dissipation. But now it appears there’s a trade-off in that doing so also causes a big drop in the inductance gain. Is it sort of the case that eddy currents create magnetic fields which helps increase the inductance, but at the same time those currents lead to Joule heating? So what I would ideally want is a ferromagnetic material that has super high conductivity, so I get lots of eddy currents but little resistive dissipation? I’m guessing there’s something wrong with that thinking, because I don’t remember hearing about people looking for such kinds of materials.

2. I always thought of permeability being to magnets what permittivity is to dielectrics. But now instead permeability is being made analogous to conductivity. Does permittivity likewise map onto some kind of analog of conductivity?

On May 4, 2021, at 8:02 PM, John Denker via Phys-l <> wrote:

On 5/4/21 3:36 PM, Carl Mungan via Phys-l wrote:

I’m wondering about the following. Some multimeters can measure
inductance. I have tried with a few coils lying around and I find
that with nothing (ie. air) in the core, I get one value of the
inductance, say maybe 0.1 H for things like Pasco coils or even some
larger coils. If I now insert iron rods or laminated iron bars into
them, the inductance increases by about a factor of 10, maybe a bit
more or maybe a bit less.

My question is: Since the relative permeability of iron (even at low
applied fields) can easily be 10 000 or more, why am I not seeing
substantially bigger increases in the inductance when I insert these
iron cores?

Interesting topic. Most people have very little intuition about how
magnetic circuits work. I know a guy who earned a living as a
consultant designing such things.

Short answer: Here is a good way to visualize what's going on,
approximately: There is something roughly analogous to Ohm's law for
field lines. Electrical resistivity maps onto magnetic reluctivity
(which is the reciprocal of permeability). Iron has a low reluctivity
while air has a high (but not infinitely
high) reluctivity. Field lines are endless, so they always form a
complete circuit. The number of field lines you get depends on not
just the reluctivity of the chunk of iron, but of the
*complete circuit*

In the given situation, the total reluctance of the circuit will be
dominated by the air. You can change this dramatically by using
multiple pieces of iron to make a *closed path* that the magnetic
field lines can follow. You want the field lines to stay within the

Everything I've said is approximate. You can see where it comes from
by looking at the Maxwell equations plus the equation of state of the

There exists finite-element modeling software that will work out the

For the next level of detail:
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Carl E. Mungan, Professor of Physics 410-293-6680 (O) -3729 (F) Naval Academy Stop 9c, 572C Holloway Rd, Annapolis MD 21402-1363

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