Safety and Neodymium Magnets

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What are Neodymium Magnets

Neodymium magnets are the strongest permanent magnets in the world.  They are made from a powder containing the elements Neodymium (a rare-earth element),  Iron, Boron and small quantities of Dyprosium and other elements.   They are sometimes referred to as Rare Earth magnets, neo, neodym, or NIB.

The powder is sintered in an anoxic (no oxygen) environment.  They usually then have a protective coating applied to stop the iron from rusting.  Most often, this coating is a layer of nickel then a layer of copper and a final layer of nickel but this is electroplating so the layers are very thin.  This means that neodymium magnets are NOT solid metal.

Other coatings include Zinc, Gold, Passivated Phosphate (unreactive), Tin, Silver, Epoxy Resin, etc.

Safety Essentials

Neodymium magnets must be kept at least 30cm away from:
  • pacemakers
  • motorised insulin pumps
  • compasses
  • magnetic storage media including swipe cards
  • cathode ray tubes (old TVs and computer monitors)
Additionally, neodymium magnets are not generally suitable for children.

Magnets Hurt!
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Magnets Hurt!

Handy hints for handling neodymium magnets

When we ship out any neodymium magnets we always send a black and yellow sheet which contains all the relevant safety information and handling information.  Please read this carefully BEFORE handling the magnets.

  • Neodymium magnets can hurtle towards each other - even from surprisingly long distances.
  • The acceleration and magnetic force will cause the plating to blister, the magnets to break, crack, chip or shatter.
  • Injury can be caused by getting body parts trapped between two magnets or between a magnet and a steel/iron surface.  Injuries include blisters, crushing and cuts.
  • The larger the magnet the greater the risk!
  • Magnets less than 1.5mm thick and greater than 5mm diameter or width can be broken by trying to flex them.

How to store neodymium magnets

  • Store your neodymium magnets in a dry environment.  Nickel plating is porous and there is a risk that the tiniest scratches will enable to iron to start to rust.
  • If your magnets came with spacers between them, use those spacers when you store the magnets.  They prevent impact damage and make it easier to separate the magnets.
  • Neodymium magnets do not require a keeper like old fashioned horseshoe magnets did.
  • Do not mix or 'loosely' store magnets.  They will form a giant clump which is difficult to separate.
  • Keep magnets away from magnetic storage media.
Separating magnets using this overhang method
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Separating magnets using this overhang method

How to separate your neodymium magnets

Before you start, remember that if you have spacers between your magnets, they are likely to be very strong and/or liable to flexing which will cause instant breakages.
  • Remember, it is easier to slide magnets apart than to try to pull them apart.
  • Try separating magnets by overhanging a single magnet from a raised flat surface (eg a desk or a table).  Push down on the single magnet  to slide it apart.
  • IMPORTANT: as you separate the magnets, keep them moving apart because they will try to jump back together and when they do they will blister, break, crack, chip or shatter.
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