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A stack of ferrite magnets

Ferrites are a class of chemical compounds with the formula AB2O4, where A and B represent various metal cations, usually including iron. These magnetic ceramic materials are used to make permanent magnets, ferrite cores for transformers, and in various other high tech applications.

Ferrites are a class of spinels, materials that adopt a crystal motif consisting of cubic close-packed (FCC) oxides (O2-) with A cations occupying one eighth of the tetrahedral holes and B cations occupying half of the octahedral holes. The magnetic material known as "ZnFe" has the deceptively simple formula ZnFe2O4, with Fe3+ occupying the octahedral sites and half of the tetrahedral sites. The remaining tetrahedral sites in this spinel are occupied by Zn2+.[1]



Ferrites are usually non-conductive ferrimagnetic ceramic compounds derived from iron oxides such as hematite (Fe2O3) or magnetite (Fe3O4) as well as oxides of other metals. Ferrites are, like most other ceramics, hard and brittle. In terms of the magnetic properties, ferrites are often classified as "soft" and "hard" which refers to their low or high coercivity of their magnetism, respectively.


Soft ferrites

Ferrites that are used in transformer or electromagnetic cores contain nickel, zinc, and/or manganese compounds. They have a low coercivity and are called soft ferrites. The low coercivity means the material's magnetization can easily reverse direction without dissipating much energy (hysteresis losses), while the material's high resistivity prevents eddy currents in the core, another source of energy loss. Because of their comparatively low losses at high frequencies, they are extensively used in the cores of RF transformers and inductors in applications such as switched-mode power supplies (SMPS).

The most common soft ferrites are manganese-zinc (MnZn, with the formula MnaZn(1-a)Fe2O4) and nickel-zinc (NiZn, with the formula NiaZn(1-a)Fe2O4). NiZn ferrites exhibit higher resistivity than MnZn, and are therefore more suitable for frequencies above 1 MHz. MnZn have in comparison higher permeability and saturation induction.

Hard ferrites

In contrast, permanent ferrite magnets are made of hard ferrites, which have a high coercivity and high remanence after magnetization. These are composed of iron and barium or strontium oxides. In a magnetically saturated state they conduct magnetic flux well and have a high magnetic permeability. This enables these so-called ceramic magnets to store stronger magnetic fields than iron itself. They are cheap, and are widely used in household products such as refrigerator magnets. The maximum magnetic field B is about 0.35 tesla and the magnetic field strength H is about 30 to 160 kiloampere turns per meter (400 to 2000 oersteds). (Hill 2006)


Ferrites are produced by heating an intimate mixture of powdered precursors pressed into a mold. During the heating process, calcination of carbonates occurs:

MCO3 → MO + CO2

The oxides of barium and strontium are typically supplied as their carbonates, BaCO3 or SrCO3. The resulting mixture of oxides undergoes sintering. Sintering is a high temperature process similar to the firing of ceramic ware.

Afterwards the cooled product is milled to particles smaller than 2 µm, small enough that each particle consists of a single Weiss domain. Next the powder is pressed into a shape, dried, and re-sintered. The shaping may be performed in an external magnetic field, in order to achieve a preferred orientation of the particles (anisotropy).

Small and geometrically easy shapes may be produced with dry pressing. However, in such a process small particles may agglomerate and lead to poorer magnetic properties compared to the wet pressing process. Direct calcination and sintering without re-milling is possible as well but leads to poor magnetic properties.

Electromagnets are pre-sintered as well (pre-reaction), milled and pressed. However, the sintering takes place in a specific atmosphere, for instance one with an oxygen shortage. The chemical composition and especially the structure vary strongly between the precursor and the sintered product.

To allow efficient stacking of product in the furnace during sintering and prevent parts sticking together, many manufacturers separate ware using Ceramic Powder Separator Sheets. These sheets are available in various materials such as alumina, zirconia and magnesia. They are also available in fine medium and coarse particle sizes. By matching the material and particle size to the ware being sintered, surface damage and contamination can be reduced while maximizing furnace loading.


Ferrite cores are used in electronic inductors, transformers, and electromagnets where the high electrical resistance of the ferrite leads to very low eddy current losses. They are commonly seen as a lump in a computer cable, called a ferrite bead, which helps to prevent high frequency electrical noise (radio frequency interference) from exiting or entering the equipment.

Early computer memories stored data in the residual magnetic fields of hard ferrite cores, which were assembled into arrays of core memory. Ferrite powders are used in the coatings of magnetic recording tapes. One such type of material is iron (III) oxide.

Ferrite particles are also used as a component of radar-absorbing materials or coatings used in stealth aircraft and in the expensive absorption tiles lining the rooms used for electromagnetic compatibility measurements.

Most common radio magnets, including those used in loudspeakers, are ferrite magnets. Ferrite magnets have largely displaced Alnico magnets in these applications.

It is a common magnetic material for electromagnetic instrument pickups, because of price and relatively high output. However, such pickups lack certain sonic qualities found in other pickups, such as those that use Alnico alloys or more sophisticated magnets.

See also


  1. ^ Shriver, D. F.; Atkins, P. W.; Overton, T. L.; Rourke, J. P.; Weller, M. T.; Armstrong, F. A. “Inorganic Chemistry” W. H. Freeman, New York, 2006. ISBN 0-7167-4878-9.

External links


  • MMPA 0100-00, Standard Specifications for Permanent Magnet Materials [1]
  • Meeldijk, Victor Electronic Components: Selection and Application Guidelines, 1997 Wiley [ISBN 0-471-18972-3]
  • Ott, Henry Noise Reduction Techniques in Electronic Systems 1988 Wiley [ISBN 0-471-85068-3]
  • Luecke, Gerald and others General Radiotelephone Operator License Plus Radar Endorsement 2004, Master Pub. [ISBN 0-945053-14-2]
  • Bartlett, Bruce and others Practical Recording Techniques 2005 Focal Press [ISBN 0-240-80685-9]
  • Hill Technical Sales [2]
  • Schaller, George E. Ferrite Processing & Effects on Material Performance [3]


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