In physics, specifically electromagnetism, the magnetic flux through a surface is the surface integral of the normal component of the magnetic field B over that surface. It is usually denoted Φ or ΦB. The SI unit of magnetic flux is the weber (Wb; in derived units, volt–seconds), and the CGS unit is the maxwell. Magnetic flux is usually measured with a fluxmeter, which contains measuring coils, and it calculates the magnetic flux from the change of voltage on the coils.
The magnetic interaction is described in terms of a vector field, where each point in space is associated with a vector that determines what force a moving charge would experience at that point (see Lorentz force). Since a vector field is quite difficult to visualize at first, in elementary physics one may instead visualize this field with field lines. The magnetic flux through some surface, in this simplified picture, is proportional to the number of field lines passing through that surface (in some contexts, the flux may be defined to be precisely the number of field lines passing through that surface; although technically misleading, this distinction is not important). The magnetic flux is the net number of field lines passing through that surface; that is, the number passing through in one direction minus the number passing through in the other direction (see below for deciding in which direction the field lines carry a positive sign and in which they carry a negative sign). In more advanced physics, the field line analogy is dropped and the magnetic flux is properly defined as the surface integral of the normal component of the magnetic field passing through a surface. If the magnetic field is constant, the magnetic flux passing through a surface of vector area S is
Main article: Gauss's law for magnetism
Gauss's law for magnetism, which is one of the four Maxwell's equations, states that the total magnetic flux through a closed surface is equal to zero. (A "closed surface" is a surface that completely encloses a volume(s) with no holes.) This law is a consequence of the empirical observation that magnetic monopoles have never been found.
In other words, Gauss's law for magnetism is the statement:
for any closed surface S.
While the magnetic flux through a closed surface is always zero, the magnetic flux through an open surface need not be zero and is an important quantity in electromagnetism.
When determining the total magnetic flux through a surface only the boundary of the surface needs to be defined, the actual shape of the surface is irrelevant and the integral over any surface sharing the same boundary will be equal. This is a direct consequence of the closed surface flux being zero.
Main article: Faraday's law of induction
For example, a change in the magnetic flux passing through a loop of conductive wire will cause an electromotive force, and therefore an electric current, in the loop. The relationship is given by Faraday's law:
The two equations for the EMF are, firstly, the work per unit charge done against the Lorentz force in moving a test charge around the (possibly moving) surface boundary ∂Σ and, secondly, as the change of magnetic flux through the open surface Σ. This equation is the principle behind an electrical generator.
By way of contrast, Gauss's law for electric fields, another of Maxwell's equations, is
The flux of E through a closed surface is not always zero; this indicates the presence of "electric monopoles", that is, free positive or negative charges.
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