What is ferrite?

Ferrite is a class of ceramic material with useful electromagnetic properties and an interesting history. Ferrite is rigid and brittle. Like other ceramics, ferrite can chip and break if handled roughly. Luckily it is not as fragile as porcelain and often such chips and cracks will be merely cosmetic. Ferrite varies from silver gray to black in color. The electromagnetic properties of ferrite materials can be affected by operating conditions such as temperature, pressure, field strength, frequency and time.

There are basically two varieties of ferrite: soft and hard. This is not a tactile quality but rather a magnetic characteristic. 'Soft ferrite' does not retain significant magnetization whereas 'hard ferrite' magnetization is considered permanent. Fair-Rite ferrite materials are of the 'soft' variety.

Ferrite has a cubic crystalline structure with the chemical formula MO.Fe2O3 where Fe2O3 is iron oxide and MO refers to a combination of two or more divalent metal (i.e: zinc, nickel, manganese and copper) oxides. The addition of such metal oxides in various amounts allows the creation of many different materials whose properties can be tailored for a variety of uses.

Ferrite components are pressed from a powdered precursor and then sintered (fired) in a kiln. The mechanical and electromagnetic properties of the ferrite are heavily affected by the sintering process which is time-temperature-atmosphere dependent.

Ferrite shrinks when sintered. Depending on the specific ferrite, this shrinkage can range from 10% to 17% in each dimension. Thus the unfired component's volume may be as much as 60% larger than the sintered value. Maintaining correct dimensional tolerances as well as the prevention of cracking and warpage related to this shrinkage are fundamental concerns of the manufacturing process.