When it comes to electricity, conductors and insulators play an important role in the way it behaves. Conductors allow electricity to flow freely through them, while insulators prevent electricity from passing through. Understanding the difference between the two is important, not only for understanding the basics of electricity but also for many practical applications.
What is a Conductor?
A conductor is a material that allows electricity to pass through it easily. This is because the outermost electrons of atoms in conductive materials are loosely bound and can move freely when an electrical voltage is applied across the material. Metals are good conductors of electricity because they have free electrons that can move around easily.
Copper is common in electrical wiring due to its ability to conduct electricity well. Aluminum is another common conductor used in transmission lines as it is lightweight and inexpensive. Other examples of conductors include gold, silver, and iron.
The conductivity of a material is measured by its electrical conductivity, which is a property that indicates how easily an electrical current can flow through it. The unit of measurement for electrical conductivity is Siemens per meter (S/m) in the International System of Units (SI). Conductors have high electrical conductivity ratings, usually above 10⁷ S/m.
One key characteristic of conductors is that they tend to heat up when electricity flows through them. This is because the electric current interacts with the material's atoms and transfers heat to the conductor. This is why metal wires can become very hot when a high current flows through them.
What is an Insulator?
An insulator is a material that prevents electricity from passing through it. This is because insulators have tightly-bound electrons, and they do not allow the free flow of electrons. Examples of insulators include rubber, glass, and air.
Air is a great insulator because it is a poor conductor of electricity. This means that electrical current has a hard time flowing through it. This is why birds can sit on electrical wires without being electrocuted.
The electrical resistivity of a material is a measure of how easily it allows an electric current to pass through it. Insulators have high electrical resistivity, usually above 10¹² Ωm. Materials with high resistivity conduct electricity poorly, while materials with low resistivity conduct electricity well.
Insulators are used to prevent electricity from going where it shouldn't be. Electrical wires are coated with insulating materials to prevent electric shocks. Rubber gloves are another example of insulators that protect people from electricity.
Difference Between Conductor And Insulator
The main difference between conductors and insulators is their ability to conduct electricity. Conductors allow electricity to flow through them easily, while insulators prevent the flow of electricity. Another difference is their electrical properties: conductors have low electrical resistivity while insulators have high electrical resistivity.
Materials can also be classified as semi-conductors, which lie somewhere between conductors and insulators. These materials conduct electricity but not as well as metals. Silicon and germanium are examples of semi-conductors.
Semi-conductors are commonly used in electronic devices, such as chips found in computers. They are designed to conduct electricity when an electric charge is applied to them but not when no current is applied.
Applications of Conductors and Insulators
The properties of conductors and insulators make them useful in various applications. Conductors are used for distributing electricity, powering lights, and operating various machinery. Insulators, on the other hand, are used for safety purposes to protect people from electric shocks.
Electronic devices also use conductors and insulators to direct the flow of electricity. Printed circuit boards, for example, use copper traces to conduct electricity between different components. Insulators are used to separate different areas of the circuit board to prevent the electricity from going where it's not supposed to.
In conclusion, conductors and insulators play a vital role in the way we use electricity. Conductors allow electricity to flow freely through them, while insulators prevent electricity from passing through. Understanding the difference between conductors and insulators is crucial for many practical applications. Conductors are used for distributing electricity, powering lights, and operating various machinery, while insulators are used for safety purposes to protect people from electric shocks.