Paramagnetism is a form of magnetism whereby the paramagnetic material is only attracted when in the presence of an externally applied magnetic field. In contrast with this behavior, diamagnetic materials are repelled by magnetic fields. Paramagnetic materials have a relative magnetic permeability greater or equal to unity (i.e., a positive magnetic susceptibility) and hence are attracted to magnetic fields. The magnetic moment induced by the applied field is linear in the field strength and rather weak. It typically requires a sensitive analytical balance to detect the effect and modern measurements on paramagnetic materials are often conducted with a SQUID magnetometer.
Paramagnetic materials have a small, positive susceptibility to magnetic fields. These materials are slightly attracted by a magnetic field and the material does not retain the magnetic properties when the external field is removed. Paramagnetic properties are due to the presence of some unpaired electrons, and from the realignment of the electron paths caused by the external magnetic field. Paramagnetic materials include magnesium, molybdenum, lithium, and tantalum.
Unlike ferromagnets, paramagnets do not retain any magnetization in the absence of an externally applied magnetic field, because thermal motion randomizes the spin orientations. Some paramagnetic materials retain spin disorder at absolute zero, meaning they are paramagnetic in the ground state. Thus the total magnetization drops to zero when the applied field is removed. Even in the presence of the field there is only a small induced magnetization because only a small fraction of the spins will be oriented by the field. This fraction is proportional to the field strength and this explains the linear dependency. The attraction experienced by ferromagnetic materials is non-linear and much stronger, so that it is easily observed, for instance, by the attraction between a refrigerator magnet and the iron of the refrigerator itself.