A smooth cardboard with iron filings spread over it is fixed in a horizontal plane with the help of a clamp. A straight wire passes through a hole made at the center of the cardboard (Figure).
Fig: Magnetic field around a straight conductor carrying current
A current is passed through the wire by connecting its ends to a battery. When the cardboard is gently tapped, it is found that the iron filings arrange themselves along concentric circles.
This clearly shows that magnetic field is developed around a current carrying conductor.
To find the direction of the magnetic field, let us imagine, a straight wire passes through the plane of the paper and perpendicular to it. When a compass needle is placed, it comes to rest in such a way that its axis is always tangential to a circular field around the conductor. When the current is inwards (Fig: a) the direction of the magnetic field around the conductor looks clockwise.
When the direction of the current is reversed, that it is outwards, (Fig: b) the direction of the magnetic pole of the compass needle also changes showing the reversal of the direction of the magnetic field. Now, it is anticlockwise around the conductor. This proves that the direction of the magnetic field also depends on the direction of the current in the conductor. This is given by Maxwell’s rule.