Many companies that work with magnets in manufacturing use the term ‘gauss’ every day. Some may not know that the term has its origins in the work of a German mathematician named Carl Friedrich Gauss, who used mathematical principles to measure magnetism. Of course, you could probably get by without that particular trivia nugget. It’s more important to know what ‘gauss’ actually refers to, and what it does not mean.

Surprisingly it is still an often misunderstood term, even among companies that rely on magnetic components.

Essentially, gauss refers to the intensity of the magnetic field or, put another way, how much magnetic field is in a given area.

One unit of gauss is one line of flux in a 1 cm square surface area. Another way to think of it is in terms of flux density. So if you can imagine a sugar cube and one line of flux coming from the North Pole to the South Pole that’s what one gauss is. It doesn’t necessarily pertain to how far the magnetic field reaches, however the distance will be proportional to flux density and magnet geometry.

In more technical terms, gauss is still a measurement of field strength; it is a location variable and also a vector (with direction), which means a different location in a space has different gauss reading and direction associated with it.

Gauss is different than pull strength of a magnet in general and a higher gauss does not necessarily lead to higher pull strength. A gauss reading is used in applications that field strength functions as the primary parameter, such as a sensor application. In most cases gauss level cannot be used to compare the field strength between magnets unless the magnets have the same geometry, and the gauss readings are measured at the same location.

In measurement terms, gauss, abbreviated as G or Gs, is the cgs unit of measurement of a magnetic field B, which is also known as the "magnetic flux density" or the "magnetic induction". One gauss is defined as one maxwell per square centimeter. The cgs system has been augmented by the SI system, which uses the tesla (T) as the unit for B. One Tesla = 10,000 gauss!

Okay, back to Earth. Since the earth’s magnetic field is about 0.5 gauss, and the pizza-shaped refrigerator magnet you got from your local pizzeria is 10 gauss, one could mistakenly conclude that the magnet from Al’s Pizza is more powerful than the one around the planet. That would be a frightening thought. The magnetic field can reach everywhere in a space, but its strength is reduced as distance increases. That is why air shipment regulates a certain gauss value at a distance of 15 feet. Usually the gauss level is very small at this distance and can only be measured with a very accurate and sensitive gauss meter.

A calculation may be helpful in estimating field strength at a distance, but it wouldn’t take shielding / packaging into consideration. Working out the calculation by hand can be a long and difficult process. Fortunately, Adams offers a shortcut – a free Magnetic Field Calculator that measures both gauss level and pull force. Our calculations are based on the size and material type for an individual magnet.

Questions? Contact us!

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