Electrical Conductors

electrical conductors

Each material is different and has its characteristics and properties. Some materials have electrically charged particles known as electrons. These electrons electric charge is applied to the material at specific points; the electrons start to move and allow electricity to pass through it. The ability of the material to pass electricity through it is known as conductivity. Depending on the conductivity, materials are classified as conductors, insulators and superconductors.

Materials which have good mobility of electrons are known as conductors and materials with less mobility of electrons are referred to as insulators. In this article, let us know the best conductor of electricity and its properties.

What is an Electrical Conductor?

If you have to define the meaning of electrical conductors in the simplest way, they are materials that allow electricity to flow through them easily. If we compare two types of material and the first one allows better flow of electricity through it, then that material is said to be a good conductor of electricity.

Some examples of conductors of electricity are

  • Copper
  • Aluminium
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Graphite
  • Platinum
  • Water
  • People

An electrical conductor allows the electric charges to easily flow through them. The property of conductors to “conduct” electricity is called conductivity. Such materials offer less opposition or “resistance” to the flow of charges. Conducting materials allow easy charge transfer because of the free movement of electrons through them.

Types of Conductors

  • Metals

Most conducting materials used for practical applications are metals. For example, the wire around your house probably uses copper wires as conducting materials or their alloys. The electric plugs have metal in them, and the internal mechanism of your electric irons also use metals as their conducting material. This is because metals have lots of free electrons and promote mobility. Some of the best metal conductors are Silver (Ag), Copper (Cu) and Gold (Au).

The more free electrons present in a metal, the greater its conductivity. Comparatively, silver has better electrical conductivity than copper and gold. Since silver is far more expensive than copper, copper finds its application in all household appliances and circuits. 

Aluminium is also one of the best conductor of electricity which has a conductivity slightly lesser than copper. It is used in the internal wiring of the home, and most commonly it is used in combination with copper.

Silver oxide batteries are widely used in watches and hearing aids since it is light-weight and durable.

  • Non – Metals

There are some non-metals which are a very good conductor of electricity. For example, the carbon in the form of graphite is a very good conductor of electricity. If you see the structure of graphite, only three of the four carbon atoms are used for bonding. This leaves one electron free for bonding. However, most non-metals are not good conductors of electricity.

  • Ionic Conductors

Conductors in their solution form are called ionic conductors. For example, saltwater is an ionic solution and is a good conductor of electricity.

  • Semiconductors

Although semiconductors are not as good at conducting electricity as conductors, they still have their uses. Examples of semiconductors are Germanium (Ge) and Silicon (Si).

Properties of Electrical Conductor

A conductor exhibits the following properties in equilibrium condition:

  • A conductor always allows the movement of electrons and ions in them.
  • The electric field of a conductor is zero allowing electrons to flow within them.
  • The charge density of a conductor is zero.
  • Only on the surface of the conductor, free charges exist.
  • All points of a conductor are at the same potential.

Many metals are good conductors of electricity. This is the reason why parts of appliances that need to pass electricity are made of metals. The plastic covering that surrounds an electrical conductor is known as insulators. It prevents us from getting an electric shock.

Superconductors

The superconductor is a material that offers no resistance to the flow of electrons and conducts electricity. The superconductivity phenomenon was discovered by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, the Dutch Physicist in the year 1911. Superconductors are elements or metallic alloy, when cooled below a certain threshold temperature, lose electrical resistance property and become superconductors.

Some of the best superconductors are niobium, cuprate, magnesium and diboride.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

What is the inverse of conductance called?

The inverse of conductance is called resistance

Since metals are good conductors of electricity, electric wires are made of copper wires. True or False?

True. Electric wires are made of metal wires because they are good conductors of electricity.

List some common insulators.

Glass, Plastic and Air are some common examples of insulators.

Among the following, which is the best conductor of electricity?

  • Aluminium
  • Iron
  • Copper

Among the following, copper is a good conductor of electricity.

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