Paramagnetism is a form of magnetism whereby certain materials are attracted by an externally applied magnetic field, and form internal, induced magnetic fields in the direction of the applied magnetic field. In contrast with this behavior, diamagnetic materials are repelled by magnetic fields and form induced magnetic fields in the direction opposite to that of the applied magnetic field. Paramagnetic materials include most chemical elements and some compounds; they have a relative magnetic permeabilitygreater than or equal to 1 (i.e., a positive magnetic susceptibility) and hence are attracted to magnetic fields. The magnetic moment induced by the applied field is linear in the field strength and rather weak. It typically requires a sensitive analytical balance to detect the effect and modern measurements on paramagnetic materials are often conducted with a SQUID magnetometer.
Paramagnetic materials have a small, positive susceptibility to magnetic fields. These materials are slightly attracted by a magnetic field and the material does not retain the magnetic properties when the external field is removed. Paramagnetic properties are due to the presence of some unpaired electrons, and from the realignment of the electron paths caused by the external magnetic field. Paramagnetic materials include magnesium, molybdenum, lithium, and tantalum.
Unlike ferromagnets, paramagnets do not retain any magnetization in the absence of an externally applied magnetic field because thermal motion randomizes the spin orientations. (Some paramagnetic materials retain spin disorder even at absolute zero, meaning they are paramagnetic in the ground state, i.e. in the absence of thermal motion.) Thus the total magnetization drops to zero when the applied field is removed. Even in the presence of the field there is only a small induced magnetization because only a small fraction of the spins will be oriented by the field. This fraction is proportional to the field strength and this explains the linear dependency. The attraction experienced by ferromagnetic materials is non-linear and much stronger, so that it is easily observed, for instance, in the attraction between a refrigerator magnet and the iron of the refrigerator itself.
Diamagnets were first discovered when Sebald Justinus Brugmans observed in 1778 that bismuth and antimony were repelled by magnetic fields. In 1845, Michael Faradaydemonstrated that it was a property of matter and concluded that every material responded (in either a diamagnetic or paramagnetic way) to an applied magnetic field. He adopted the term diamagnetism after it was suggested to him by William Whewell.