Volume Magnetic Susceptibility: Understanding Magnetism in Materials

Magnetism is a fascinating phenomenon that plays a crucial role in various aspects of our lives, from electronic devices to medical technologies. Understanding magnetism involves delving into concepts like magnetic susceptibility, which helps describe how materials respond to magnetic fields. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore volume magnetic susceptibility, its significance, and its applications in the world of physics and materials science.

Introduction to Magnetic Susceptibility:

Magnetic susceptibility is a property of materials that characterizes their response to an applied magnetic field. It quantifies how easily a material can become magnetized when exposed to an external magnetic field. Materials can be classified into three categories based on their magnetic behavior:

  1. Diamagnetic Materials: These materials have a negative magnetic susceptibility. When placed in a magnetic field, diamagnetic materials generate a weak magnetic field in the opposite direction, causing them to be repelled by magnets. Common examples include water, wood, and most organic compounds.
  2. Paramagnetic Materials: Paramagnetic materials have a positive magnetic susceptibility. They become weakly magnetized in the direction of the applied magnetic field. Paramagnetism is due to the alignment of individual atomic or molecular magnetic moments in the direction of the field. Oxygen, aluminum, and platinum are examples of paramagnetic materials.
  3. Ferromagnetic and Ferrimagnetic Materials: These materials exhibit strong, permanent magnetization when exposed to a magnetic field. They have a positive magnetic susceptibility and can retain their magnetization even after the removal of the external field. Common ferromagnetic materials include iron, nickel, and cobalt.

Understanding Volume Magnetic Susceptibility:

Volume magnetic susceptibility, denoted by the symbol χ (chi), is a measure of how a material’s magnetization changes with respect to the applied magnetic field. It is expressed as the ratio of the material’s magnetization (M) to the applied magnetic field strength (H). Mathematically, volume magnetic susceptibility is defined as:



  • (chi) is the volume magnetic susceptibility (unitless).
  • is the magnetization of the material (measured in amperes per meter, A/m).
  • is the magnetic field strength (also measured in amperes per meter, A/m).

The SI unit of magnetic susceptibility is the reciprocal of meters, denoted as m^-1.

Measurement and Units of Magnetic Susceptibility:

Magnetic susceptibility can be determined through experimental methods, such as the Gouy method or the Faraday method, where the magnetization of the material is measured as a function of the applied magnetic field.

In practice, magnetic susceptibility values can vary widely depending on the material and the strength of the applied magnetic field. For diamagnetic materials, susceptibility values are typically small and negative. Paramagnetic materials have positive susceptibility values that are also generally small. Ferromagnetic materials can have much larger susceptibility values, and they may exhibit hysteresis, meaning their magnetization response depends on the history of the magnetic field exposure.

The units of magnetic susceptibility are reciprocal meters (m^-1) or more commonly, the dimensionless unit.

Significance and Applications of Volume Magnetic Susceptibility:

Volume magnetic susceptibility is a fundamental property that has significant implications in various fields of science and technology:

  1. Material Characterization: Magnetic susceptibility is used to classify and characterize materials based on their magnetic behavior. This information is essential in materials science and geology for identifying and studying different substances.
  2. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): In medical imaging, the magnetic susceptibility of tissues plays a crucial role in the generation of contrast in MRI images. Variations in susceptibility can highlight different structures and abnormalities in the body.
  3. Geophysics: In geophysical exploration, magnetic susceptibility measurements are used to identify minerals and geological formations in the Earth’s crust. This is important for mineral exploration and studying the Earth’s subsurface.
  4. Material Development: Understanding the magnetic susceptibility of materials is essential for designing and engineering magnetic components and devices, such as transformers, inductors, and magnetic storage media.
  5. Magnetic Shielding: Materials with specific magnetic susceptibilities are used in magnetic shielding applications to protect sensitive electronic equipment from external magnetic fields.
  6. Environmental Monitoring: Magnetic susceptibility can be employed to study environmental samples and sediments, providing insights into pollution levels and geological processes.
  7. Archaeology: Magnetic susceptibility measurements are used in archaeology to detect buried structures and artifacts, helping researchers uncover the past.


Volume magnetic susceptibility is a fundamental property that characterizes how materials respond to magnetic fields. It plays a crucial role in various scientific and technological applications, ranging from medical imaging to geophysics and material design. Understanding the magnetic behavior of materials through susceptibility measurements is essential for advancing research, engineering, and our overall understanding of the physical world. Whether it’s exploring the Earth’s subsurface, designing advanced electronics, or diagnosing medical conditions, magnetic susceptibility remains a valuable tool in the study of magnetism and its applications.

By Mayank

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