Magnetic dipole moment (Gilbert model)


Far away from a magnet, its magnetic field is almost always described (to a good approximation) by a dipole field characterized by its total magnetic dipole moment, m. This is true regardless of the shape of the magnet, so long as the magnetic moment is non-zero. One characteristic of a dipole field is that the strength of the field falls off inversely with the cube of the distance from the magnet’s center.

The magnetic moment of a magnet is therefore a measure of its strength and orientation. A loop of electric current, a bar magnet, an electron, a molecule, and a planet all have magnetic moments. More precisely, the term magnetic moment normally refers to a system’s magnetic dipole moment, which produces the first term in the multipole expansion of a general magnetic field.

Both the torque and force exerted on a magnet by an external magnetic field are proportional to that magnet’s magnetic moment. The magnetic moment is a vector: it has both a magnitude and direction. The direction of the magnetic moment points from the south to north pole of a magnet (inside the magnet). For example, the direction of the magnetic moment of a bar magnet, such as the one in a compass is the direction that the north poles points toward.

In the Gilbert model, the magnetic dipole moment is due to two equal and opposite magnetic charges that are separated by a distance, d. In this model, m is similar to the electric dipole moment p due to electrical charges is calculated by the shown formula.

Related formulas


mmagnetic dipole moment (A*m2)
qmmagnetic charge (A*m)
dsepration distance between the magnets (m)