Physics Lens

Measuring the Force on a Current-Carrying Conductor

The force acting on a current-carrying conductor is given by $$F =BIl sin \theta$$ where B is the magnetic flux density, I is the current, l is the length of the wire and $\theta$ is the angle between the current and the magnetic field. It can be measured in directly using a weighing scale as described below:


  1. An electronic weighing scale
  2. Two neodymium magnets
  3. Plasticine
  4. Batteries
  5. 40 cm long wire


  1. Place some plasticine between two neodymium magnets to hold them together with each magnet having a different pole facing up (north for one and south for the other).
  2. Place the magnets on the weighing scale.
  3. Connect the 40 cm wire across the opposite terminals of the batteries.
  4. Hold the wire horizontally and place it between the two magnets so that the current runs perpendicularly to the magnetic field lines.
  5. Using Fleming’s left-hand rule, one can predict whether the measured weight will increase or decrease. If the magnetic force acting on the wire is upward, by Newton’s 3rd law, the reaction force acting on the magnets is downward and the measured weight will increase, and vice versa.
  6. Flipping the current around in the opposite direction will yield opposite results.