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 ? or ?B. 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 electronics, that evaluates the change of voltage in the measuring coils to calculate the measurement of magnetic flux.
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
where B is the magnitude of the magnetic field (the magnetic flux density) having the unit of Wb/m2 (tesla), S is the area of the surface, and ? is the angle between the magnetic field lines and the normal (perpendicular) to S. For a varying magnetic field, we first consider the magnetic flux through an infinitesimal area element dS, where we may consider the field to be constant:
A generic surface, S, can then be broken into infinitesimal elements and the total magnetic flux through the surface is then the surface integral
where the line integral is taken over the boundary of the surface S, which is denoted ?S.
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.
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.
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 and, secondly, as the change of magnetic flux through the open surface ?. This equation is the principle behind an electrical generator.