It is a commonly known fact that copper wires are majorly used to transmit energy for household and industrial purposes. Copper is a metal, and its capacity to conduct electricity efficiently that encourages its widespread use for this purpose. Generally, metals are considered to be good conductors of electricity. There is frequent confusion raised by the students in the university that why do metals conduct electricity. It is the presence of free electrons (negatively charged moving particles) that makes the flow of electricity possible through it. There occurs a flow of electricity when an electric charge is introduced at one end of the metallic wire. The materials which do not allow the electricity to pass through them are scientifically termed as insulators. It is because the material coming under the classification of insulators has very less electron mobility. Since a lot of students have raised confusion on why do metals conduct electricity so we have published this article that would discuss the topic in detail.
A small overview of the link between electricity and metals
There are several free electrons in between the metal atoms which allows the flow of electricity from one end to another end. A higher level of conductivity could be attained by using pure metals. The higher the impurities are present in the metal, the lesser would become its electric conductivity. It is the same ideology behind the reduced electric conductivity of alloys.
If taken the instance of electric cookware used in households, most of them are created by using copper metal. If compared with aluminium, copper has very high electric conductivity. The same factor makes the copper utensils very costly for the users.
The reason behind metal’s electric conductivity
As mentioned in the previous section of this article on “why do metals conduct electricity” it is the presence of free electrons in between the metal atoms that favours the flow of electricity through it. These free electrons are also termed as valence electrons that are loosely bound to the outer shell of the metal atom. The same factor of valence electrons provides the property of heat conductivity to the metal atoms.
Substantial threshold energy is transferred to the valence electrons when the electricity is introduced. Threshold energy could be defined as the particular amount of energy that is required to free the valence electron from the outer shell. The presence of free electrons in the metallic lattice has the potential to change the character of the element. In this case, the presence of free electrons provides both the characteristics of thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity to the element. It is the mutual collision of these negatively charged free electrons that turns out into the flow of electric current through the metallic wire.
Any block or hindrance to the flow of electric current through the matter is termed as resistance. The situation of no resistance could be affirmed when there is a maximum flow of electricity through the element. The metallic elements in their pure form like copper, gold, silver, etc. are labelled under the category of best electric conductors. The valence electron in the metallic atoms possesses very little threshold energy because of the weak attractive force exerted by the nucleus. The metallic atoms thus would suddenly transform into positively charged ions soon after they are introduced to an electrically charged medium. These free electrons are very potent, and they could even contribute to a large electric current under a high electromagnetic medium. Steel could also be classified under this category and thus suddenly could get transformed into electropositive metal underexposure with electricity.
Could every metal be considered as electrical conductors?
As mentioned in the previous section of this article, why do metals conduct electricity, conductivity is the ability to conduct electricity through itself. The transmission would keep on getting better with the higher availability of the free electrons. The conductivity of the element would highly depend upon the valance electrons and the structure of the metallic lattice. The conductivity of electricity is also highly reliant on the factors like the size and shape of the selected metal wire. Below is provided with a series of metals as per their ability to conduct the electricity. Let us have a detailed look over it.
Silver > Copper > Gold > Aluminum > Zinc > Nickel > Brass > Bronze > Iron > Platinum > Carbon Steel > Lead > Stainless steel.
The magnitude of electric conductivity will also depend on the natural frequency of the element, existing electromagnetic field, crystal structure, impurities, etc. The conductivity would get reduced in increased temperature since the atoms would get thermally excited at the higher temperature. The higher irregularity in the lattice structure would also compromise the conductivity level of the element.
Other materials that would conduct
Apart from metals, there are also certain elements that would conduct electricity at a particular temperature and pressure. Our people should also notice that the metallic wire with higher thickness would pose lesser resistance to electricity. Hence, thick wires could be considered as better electric conductors. The parameter of thickness would be the same for whatever matter you chose for conducting the electricity. Below are mentioned down some of the elements other than metals that conduct electricity.
Similar to the electrical conductors there is some excellent example of electric insulators. Air, Rubber, plastic, wood, etc. could be considered as some best form of insulators. Since the atoms are very densely packed in the insulators and there are few free electrons in it, the electricity is very less probable to pass through it.
If said roughly, insulators are equally significant as electric conductors. Direct exposure to electricity is very dangerous for human beings, and the proper use of insulators would prevent us from such danger. The conductivity of the elements could be increased by substantially reducing the temperature. If taken the instance, copper could achieve the level of superconductivity of 234.5 kelvins. However, the insulators could not be converted just to the conductors by merely reducing the temperature. The lattice structure and composition should also be changed to achieve electrical conductivity in the insulators. We hope that this discussion has addressed your concern on why do metals conduct electricity.
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We hope that this article on why do metals conduct electricity was quite helpful for you. We are wrapping this article here, thank you.
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