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
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
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 you 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).
- Non – Metals
There are some non – metals which are a very good conductor of electricity. For example, 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 nonmetals are not good conductors of electricity.
- Ionic Conductors
Conductors in their solution form are called ionic conductors. For example, salt water is an ionic solution and is a good conductor of electricity.
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.
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