Zinc (symbol: Zn; atomic number: 30) is a chemical element that exists as a slightly brittle metal at room temperature. Zinc has five stable isotopes and exists as the 24th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. It is similar to magnesium in terms of its oxidation state, as Zn also exhibits only a +2 oxidation state (Zn2+). The most common zinc ore is sphalerite ((Zn, Fe)S), which largely comprises of zinc sulfide and some variable iron.
If we think about the concept of magnetism, one question regarding zinc strikes in our mind about the magnetism in zinc.
So, Is Zinc magnetic or non-magnetic? Essentially, Zinc is not a magnetic material. The electronic configuration of zinc is [Ar]3d104s2, signifying the absence of any unpaired electrons in the valence shell. This shows that zinc is diamagnetic in nature and hence, not attracted to the forces of a magnet.
The Different Extents of Magnetism – Explained
As defined by the dictionary, magnetism is the science that deals with magnetic phenomena.
An object is said to be magnetic if and only if it can create its own magnetic field when subjected to certain circumstances.
Any said object can respond to a magnetic field in multiple ways, depending upon the composition, electronic configuration, nature, and other properties of the elements forming it.
Any element can be either magnetic or non-magnetic. The magnetism in materials can be explained as follows:
- The non-magnetic materials face a repulsive force from the magnet. They lack the presence of unpaired electrons in their valence shell and are termed as Diamagnetic. For example copper, wood, zinc, etc.
However, magnetic elements have different extents of attraction and can be classified as – paramagnetic, ferromagnetic, and ferrites.
- When a material is attracted weakly towards a magnet (without a very dominant attractive force), then it is termed as Paramagnetic. For example aluminum, tin, etc.
- Ferromagnetism is said to exist in materials that are pungently drawn towards magnets. Such materials have high orders of relative permeability. For example iron, steel, nickel, etc.
- Between paramagnetic and ferromagnetic materials, lie Ferrites. Ferrites are materials that have greater magnetic properties than the levels of paramagnetism, but less than ferromagnetic materials. For example ceramic magnets.
Thus, materials can be broadly classified into the mentioned categories depending on whether or not they are drawn towards magnets, and if yes, then how strong are the attractive forces that act on the concerned materials.
The Non-Magnetic Nature of Zinc
How Magnetism is Determined?
The magnetism of material is entirely dependent on the movement of electric charges. Electrons spin around the nucleus, generating electric currents as they move. This leads to the electrons behaving like infinitesimal magnets.
Substances can be magnetized in a number of ways :
- Rubbing against an existing magnet: When a piece of a magnetic material is rubbed against the pole of a magnet (either North or South), the poles of atoms in the material align according to the pole of the magnet. The force engendered by the aligned atoms creates a magnetic field.
- Magnetizing by electric current: Running an electric current through an iron nail, wrapped in a copper wire can magnetize the nail. This method, nevertheless, is mainly suitable for strong ferromagnetic materials, because, in the case of other materials, the magnetic field is lost as soon as the current is withdrawn.
Zinc, however, cannot be magnetized by any of the mentioned methods. One such metal is brass.
Readout an interesting article on magnetism in brass.
Rubbing a diamagnetic material, such as zinc, to a magnet, will not align the poles of atoms because of the absence of any unpaired electrons.
Also, the second method will not be useful as the slight magnetic field that will be generated on the application of current is temporary. As soon as the current is withdrawn, the field also vanishes.
Why is Zinc Diamagnetic in nature?
Zn has an atomic number equal to 30 and belongs to group 12 of the periodic table. It is an extremely stable metal and exists as a stable ion in the Zn2+ form.
The electronic configuration of zinc is: 1s22s22p63s23p64s23d10. It is evident that the valence shell of Zn is completely filled, thereby eliminating the existence of any unpaired electrons.
Each electron orbital belonging to the first three energy levels is completely filled. The sub-levels 4s and 3d are also completely occupied.
There is a sharing of orbital by an equal number of electrons for both spin values (+1/2 and -1/2), resulting in a net-zero overall spin.
It signifies that the magnetic field produced by the motion of electrons, in opposite directions is equal in number and hence cancel out.
This all-inclusive zero spin contributes to diamagnetism in the zinc element, making it repulsive towards any kind of magnetic force.
The behavior of Zinc in a Magnetic Field
In the broad spectrum, Zinc may be a diamagnetic (or we can say, non-magnetic) metal, but in the presence of an exceedingly strong magnetic field, a temporary magnetism can be established in the said substance.
However, this characteristic will cease to exist as soon as the strong magnetic field is withdrawn.
When zinc is exposed to a powerful magnetic field (especially, if the metal is in its molten form), it starts to conduct a small amount of electricity.
This facilitates the generation of a feeble yet considerable, oppositely charged magnetic field.
As long as the field around the metal exists, its slight magnetism also continues to prevail. On removal of the mighty assisting field, the magnetism in zinc is lost too.
Since the acquired magnetism is not permanent, so zinc is not labeled as a magnetic material.
Properties of Zinc
- Atomic weight = 65.4g
- Density = 7.14 g/cm3
- Melting point = 420 ºC
- Boiling point = 907 ºC
- Appearance: Lustrous silver-grey or bluish-grey. Exists as a solid at STP.
- Zinc is diamagnetic and lacks the presence of unpaired electrons.
- Popularly used as a galvanizer to prevent rusting and oxidation of several metals.
- Zinc is applied to achieve the process of electro-galvanization.
- Useful for the formation of multiple alloys such as brass, the solder material, Zamak, etc.
- Five stable isotopes of zinc exist in nature: 64Zn (most abundant), 66Zn, 67Zn, 68Zn, 70Zn.
- Zinc is an inexpensive and easy to cast metal.
- It can be used in batteries (zinc-manganese and zinc-air batteries)
Zinc is the 24th most abundant metal on the surface of Earth and exists in the form of five possible stable isotopes. It is slightly brittle at room temperature and gives a tin cry like sound upon breaking.
Zinc is diamagnetic by nature and lacks the presence of any unpaired electrons in the valence shell. The overall spin, corresponding to the electronic configuration is zero and hence the substance is termed as a non-magnetic material. When placed in a well-established magnetic field, zinc develops a weak magnetic field but loses it immediately upon amputation of the field. Due to the lack of its ability to retain magnetism, it is not termed as a permanently magnetic material.
Zinc has multiple properties that make it suitable for various applications. Zinc finds the most prominent application in galvanization, a process majorly used to prevent the rusting of iron and steel.
In addition, it is also added to various metals like tin, aluminum, copper, magnesium, etc. to form various kinds of alloys.
To conclude, zinc is a non-magnetic metal that is extremely useful and quite readily available for use.