Is Carbon Steel Magnetic? 7 Facts You Should Know !

Carbon steel is a metal alloy consisting of iron and about 0.05-2.1% of carbon. Let us study about magnetic characteristics of carbon steel.

Carbon steel is magnetic as it contains a maximum percentage of iron which is itself a good magnetic material. It exhibits ferromagnetism, i.e., it is attracted by the magnet and also when carbon steel is placed in a strong magnetic field, carbon steel itself behaves as a magnet.

Carbon steel also consists of a specific amount of elements such as chromium, cobalt, nickel, niobium, etc., to obtain desired alloy structure the majority of them exhibit magnetism. In this post, let us illustrate more the magnetic properties of carbon steel.

Why is carbon steel ferromagnetic?

Ferromagnetism is a property in which certain uncharged materials strongly attracted to the other materials. Let us check whether carbon steel is ferromagnetic material.

Carbon steel is ferromagnetic because of its structure. At room temperature, the atoms present in carbon steel possess body centered cubic structure which provides high attractive force by allowing the electrons to adopt parallel spin in same direction which gives ferromagnetism for carbon steel.

At higher temperature over 1300°F, the carbon steel acquires face centered cubic structure which is does cause any magnetic interaction. So carbon steel is non-magnetic at high temperature.

Carbon steel magnetic permeability

Magnetic permeability gives the measure of degree of magnetic field penetrating through given material. Let us discuss magnetic permeability of carbon steel.

The estimated value of magnetic permeability of carbon steel is 1.26×10-4 H/m and its relative permeability is approximately equal to 100. The value of permeability of carbon steel depends on the amount of carbon. If amount of carbon is low, higher the value of permeability of carbon steel.

Carbon steel magnetic properties

Carbon steel is a hard metal alloy and less ductile, most commonly used to make cutleries. Let us provide a list of magnetic properties exhibited by carbon steel.

  • The ferromagnetic behavior of carbon steel depends on the temperature.
  • Carbon steel has relatively high magnetic permeability.
  • The hysteresis loss in carbon steel is more which means they lose magnetism rapidly.

Carbon steel magnetic saturation

Magnetic saturation is when an increase in the magnetic field cannot increase the magnetization of the material. Let us discuss the magnetic saturation of carbon steel.

The magnetic saturation acquired by carbon steel is approximately 2T. The magnetic saturation of iron-rich carbon steel decreases with the amount of cobalt and nickel present in the alloy. If the permeability of the carbon steel drops to 1, the material is said to achieve magnetic saturation.

Is low carbon steel magnetic?

Low carbon steel contains maximum iron. Let us focus on magnetic property of low carbon steel.

Low carbon steel is magnetic as it consists of ferrite possessing body centered cubic structure which means the low carbon steel exhibit ferromagnetism.

Even though low carbon steel is a ferromagnetic material, it is hard to make permanent magnets using them because low steel carbon possesses low coercive force.

Arrangement of atoms in BCC Structure of low carbon steel by David Eppstein, (CC0) from Wikimedia Commons

Is high carbon steel magnetic?

High carbon steel is very strong and never malleable or ductile. Let us learn about the possibility of magnetism in high-carbon steel.

High carbon steel is magnetic and possesses ferromagnetism due to the ferrite microstructure present in the carbon steel consisting of most unpaired electrons and spins in the same direction.

The high carbon steel can acquire temporary magnetism when it is placed in a powerful and large magnetic field. High carbon steel contains a specific amount of cobalt, nickel which helps them to acquire magnetism.

Low carbon steel vs high carbon steel

Based on the amount of carbon percentage, carbon steel derived into low and high carbon steel. Let us give comparison table of low carbon steel vs high carbon steel.

CharacteristicsLow carbon steelHigh carbon steel
Carbon contentThey have carbon content of 0.05% – 0.3%They have carbon content of 0.6% – 1.5%
Presence of other elementsThe carbon content has very less Manganese to be flexibleThe carbon in high carbon is rich in tungsten and chromium
StrengthLow carbon steel is a soft carbon steel alloy.High carbon steel is a hard carbon steel alloy.
Carbon arrangementLow carbon steel possesses BCC structure with high quality carbon structural arrangement.The structural arrangement of carbon in high carbon steel is of ordinary arrangement possessing BCC structure.
Cost and moldingLow carbon steels and inexpensive and easy to form.The cost of high carbon steel is slightly high and it is difficult to mold them.
Applications Because of low tensile strength, low carbon steel has limited applications.The high carbon steel is widely used in the manufacturing of springs edged tools and wires.
Low carbon steel vs high carbon steel


Let us end this post by stating carbon steel is a hard metal alloy different from the stainless steel. The magnetic properties of carbon steel are temperature dependent due to change crystalline structure with temperature.

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