Helmholtz Coils


The Helmholtz Coils are formed by a pair of conducting circular coils with many turns, each carrying a current. The coils are separated by a distance equal to the radius of the circular loops. This design produces a very uniform field in the center, it was first proposed by the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz.

A compass is placed in the center of the Helmholtz Coils. When the current in the coils is zero, the needle of the compass points to the north. Because the horizontal component of the earth’s magnetic field Bearthis in the North-South direction.

However, when an electrical current flows through the coils, a homogeneous magnetic field Bcoilin the East-West direction is produced in the mid-plane between the two circular coils.

The compass needle will turn to the direction of the resultant vector Bsumof the sum of the magnetic field of the earth Bearthand the field of the coil Bcoil.

With the increase of the current in the coils, the needle turns in the East-West direction.


Bsumis the sum of vectors Bearthand Bcoil:

Bsum= Bcoil+ Bearth and the magnitude Bsumis


a) b) c)


Physics Lecture Demonstration Database



Bsum= Bcoil+ Bearth



|Bsum|= |Bcoil|2+ |Bearth|2




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