What exactly is a solenoid?

Sciencing

explains what solenoids are and why they’re used.

Solenoid is the generic term for a coil of wire used as an electromagnet. It also refers to any device that converts electrical energy to mechanical energy using a solenoid. The device creates a magnetic field from electric current and uses the magnetic field to create linear motion. Common applications of solenoids are to power a switch, like the starter in an automobile, or a valve, such as in a sprinkler system.

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