The Secret Behind Your Food Processor

Believe it or not, there’s a lot more to the food processor that you know and love than chopping onions. The blade that saves you time functions as a result of two things: electricity and magnetism.

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That’s right, your blade does the work it does because of magnetic force. When you plug in your food processor and turn it on, you’re allowing for electricity to magnetize a piece of iron in such a way that it spins continuously, effectively supplying the mechanical power for the blade of your food processor to cut through veggies and unsuspecting fingers.

But how? What is magnetism and why do opposites attract? This article will walk you through it.

You’re probably aware that magnets possess a north and south pole, and that when it comes to magnets, opposites attract and like poles repel. The magnetic properties of a magnet’s poles can be seen as a result of having entered that magnet’s magnetic field.

The way the world works within a magnet’s magnetic field can be attributed to the movement of electrons. Electrons are negatively charged atomic particles that fill the orbital space of an atom’s positively charged nucleus. Electrons behave like both particles and waves, and have their own charge and mass. Their type of movement is known as spin, which can be in an upward or downward direction.

Electrons tend to pair up when the fill an atom’s orbitals. According to the Pauli Exclusion Principle, if one of the electrons in a pair spins upward, the other has to spin downward.

Even though these electrons move only by subatomic increments, the force of their movement creates a tiny magnetic field for each one. Given that there are paired electrons that spin in opposite directions, their magnetic fields then cancel each other out. This is what happens in nonmagnetic substances like wood or glass.

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However, ferromagnetic elements, which are named for their ability to potentially be magnetized, are composed in such a way that they possess a lot of unpaired electrons at the subatomic level, and many of these unpaired electrons spin in the same direction. Iron, for example, has four unpaired electrons which spin in the same direction. Because the magnetic field of these electrons’ spins are not cancelled out by that of the spin of any other electrons, the circumstances create an orbital magnetic moment. This moment takes the form of a vector, which possesses its own specific magnitude and direction that are products of the magnetic field strength and torque that the field exerts. When you hold a magnet in your hands, know that its entire magnetic field derives from the combined magnetic moments of the atoms of which it is composed.

Magnets attract other materials that also have unpaired electrons that spin in the same direction, i.e. materials that have the potential to become magnets as well. There are other elements that are diamagnetic, meaning that they do have unpaired atoms, but in such a way that it creates a field that weakly repels magnets. Very few materials don’t react with magnets at all.

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