Physics » Magnetism and Faraday's Law » Faraday's Law Of Electromagnetic Induction

Direction of Induced Current

Direction of Induced Current

The most important thing to remember is that the induced current opposes whatever change is taking place.

In the first picture (left) the circuit loop has the south pole of a magnet moving closer. The magnitude of the field from the magnet is getting larger. The response from the induced emf will be to try to resist the field towards the pole getting stronger. The field is a vector so the current will flow in a direction so that the fields due to the current tend to cancel those from the magnet, keeping the resultant field the same.

To resist the change from an approaching south pole from above, the current must result in field lines that move away from the approaching pole. The induced magnetic field must therefore have field lines that go down on the inside of the loop. The current direction indicated by the arrows on the circuit loop will achieve this. Test this by using the Right Hand Rule. Put your right thumb in the direction of one of the arrows and notice what the field curls downwards into the area enclosed by the loop.


In the second diagram the south pole is moving away. This means that the field from the magnet will be getting weaker. The response from the induced current will be to set up a magnetic field that adds to the existing one from the magnetic to resist it decreasing in strength.

Another way to think of the same feature is just using poles. To resist an approaching south pole the current that is induced creates a field that looks like another south pole on the side of the approaching south pole. Like poles repel, you can think of the current setting up a south pole to repel the approaching south pole. In the second panel, the current sets up a north pole to attract the south pole to stop it moving away.

We can also use the variation of the Right Hand Rule, putting your fingers in the direction of the current to get your thumb to point in the direction of the field lines (or the north pole).

We can test all of these on the cases of a north pole moving closer or further away from the circuit. For the first case of the north pole approaching, the current will resist the change by setting up a field in the opposite direction to the field from the magnet that is getting stronger. Use the Right Hand Rule to confirm that the arrows create a field with field lines that curl upwards in the enclosed area cancelling out those curling downwards from the north pole of the magnet.

Like poles repel, alternatively test that putting the fingers of your right hand in the direction of the current leaves your thumb pointing upwards indicating a north pole.


For the second figure where the north pole is moving away the situation is reversed.

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