In my book, it is written that "An emf is induced in a loop when the number of magnetic field lines that pass through the loop is changing" (Faraday's law)

I understand that whenever there is a change in magnetic flux, there will an emf induced in a loop and this in turn will induce a current.

However, I really want to understand what exactly goes on to cause this. I just want to check if I am right:

  1. There is a relative movement between the loop and the magnet (e.g. loop moving towards magnet)

  2. Thus, electrons in the loop are "moving" relative to the field

  3. A moving charge experiences a force perpendicular to the direction of the field

  4. As a force is exerted on the electrons, they move in a particular direction

  5. Current is induced

I do not know much calculus and studying high school physics but could someone please help me get an intuition behind Faraday's law or tell me if my way of thinking about it is right?

  • $\begingroup$ Most likely any answer you receive here from anyone formally educated on this subject will give you some description of a phenomena (descriptions are not explanations) and then throw some mathematical equation at you and say the word law a lot as well as force. Well, if you want an easier, testable, and retroductively logical answer to induction, see my answer here: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/166941/… $\endgroup$
    – Yokai
    Nov 14, 2017 at 23:54

2 Answers 2


You are correct. Essentially it all boils down to the Lorentz force $\vec{F} = q(\vec{E} + \vec{v} \times \vec{B})$. If you move into a frame of reference where the section of the loop is momentarily stationary, then you can do a Lorentz transformation to find out what $\vec{E}$ is in that frame. In that frame, $\vec{v}=0$ of course, so the second term is zero, but $\vec{E}$ will now be non-zero, and, in fact, equal to $\vec{v}\times\vec{B}$. In this frame, the force on the charges is purely electrical in nature, i.e., due to an electric field, and this is why you can define an EMF analogously to electric potential. But because wires are usually loops and each segment of the loop has it's own reference frame, there's no way to do this everywhere (globally).

  • $\begingroup$ I did not learn about Lonrentz force or reference frames yet but thank you so much for assuring me that my intuition behind Faraday's law is correct. $\endgroup$
    – Eliza
    Nov 8, 2013 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ What does your intuition say about a permanently magnetized cylinder of iron spinning about its axis (which is also it's magnetization direction). Is there an EMF produced? $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2013 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ Is the iron spinning inside some kind of coil or do you mean if an emf is induced in the cylinder itself? $\endgroup$
    – Eliza
    Nov 8, 2013 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ I chose iron because it is conductive, so I mean the cylinder itself. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2013 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ hmm...this is the picture in my mind: the electrons of the iron are following a circular path when the cylinder rotates, but the electrons will not be "moving" relative to the field because the fields are "moving" too... my intuition tells me that there is no emf induced $\endgroup$
    – Eliza
    Nov 9, 2013 at 13:28

The important thing to understand here is (sorry to start out with the obvious), that electricity and magnetism are the same force. That is to say, electrons in a wire will feel a force when subjected to a magnetic flux, as electrons are essentially small magnetic dipoles themselves. This force creates an electric field, and because the electrons are charged, a current will begin to flow.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, considering that electrons are the unit of charge I wouldn't say that they're just magnetic dipoles... I think that is more correct to say that a moving charge radiates energy in the form of electromagnetic fields. In this sense it's absolutely correct to say that electricity and magnetism are the same force $\endgroup$
    – Mattia
    Nov 9, 2013 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ The point I was making is that electrons have spin, and therefore have a magnetic dipole moment. An electron can therefore be considered (in very simplistic terms!) to be a small magnet. Electrons are certainly not just magnetic dipoles, sorry for not making that clearer $\endgroup$
    – Angelo
    Nov 9, 2013 at 16:28

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