What Materials Conduct Electricity?

The flow of electrically charged particles, electrons, cations, or anions is called the electrical conductivity, and these substances which allow the electrically charged particles to flow are called conductors. For example, the flow of electricity through a metal wire is conduction, and the metal wire is a conductor. Electrical conductivity has a vital role in the functioning of home appliances in our daily life as we see from a simple wire to light up our house to running complex computer programs, every aspect of our life is unimaginable without the conductivity and the conductors.

This article will answer some common questions when we talk about conductors.

What Materials Conduct Electricity?

The conductors conduct electricity, and these conductors are usually metals such as copper, silver, iron, and steel. The only non-metal that conducts electricity is graphite. The ionic solids such as sodium chloride salt also conduct electricity in an aqueous or molten state. Additionally, some polar covalent compounds do conduct electricity in the water.

electrical conductors

Famous materials that conduct electricity are:

  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Graphite
  • Steel
  • Bronze
  • Iron
  • Concrete
  • Platinum
  • Mercury
  • Brass

Which Type of Material is the Best Conductor of Electricity?

Silver metal is the best conductor of electricity as it offers negligible resistance to current flow. The second good conductor that is widely used is copper. Due to the expensiveness of silver, copper is preferably used for making electrical wires and other materials for conduction.


Is Conducting Electricity a Physical Property?

Yes, conducting is the physical property because the chemical nature of the substance does not change. When we talk about the physical properties, we measure the property that describes the system’s state.

Do Non-Metals Conduct Electricity?

No, the non-metals do not conduct electricity because the electrons are strongly attracted to the nucleus, and there is no free movement of the electrons. They are usually network solids that might be viewed as giant molecules having a directional covalent bond—for example, diamond, silica, and silicon carbide. 

The two most known forms of carbon, diamond and graphite, are typical network solids non-metals. Surprisingly, graphite is the only non-metal that conducts electricity. The reason is that in the layered graphite structure, each carbon atom is surrounded by three other carbon atoms, and there is the availability of one free electron in each carbon.

The non-metals polar compounds ionizable in water conduct electricity, called electrolytes. The aqueous electrolyte solutions can conduct electricity even though water does not. For example, the aqueous solution of hydrochloric acid conducts the electricity up to a great extent because it is a strong electrolyte that is completely ionized in water to offer a massive amount of charged particles to move to conduct electricity.

Ionic solids like sodium chloride (NaCl) are the bad conductor of electricity in a solid-state. Still, they conduct electricity in molten or aqueous form due to the movement of charged particles, cations, and anions.

Are Metals Good Insulators?

No, metals are good conductors, while non-metals are excellent insulators. The insulator is the term used for non-conductors, the substances that do not allow the electricity to pass through themselves. The typical examples of insulators are plastic rubber and wood. The reason for the nonconducting behavior of the insulators that do not conduct electricity is another story we will discuss.

What Characteristic of Metals Makes them Good Electrical Conductors?

The metals are metallic solids, which have a solid metallic bond. Generally speaking, the characteristic of the metals having highly free electrons make them good conductors of electricity. But, when we discuss the conducting property of the metals technically, we talk about The Molecular Orbital Theory and Electron Sea Model. The Molecular Orbital Theory explains the conducting characteristics of the different metals reasonably. It is also called Molecular Orbital Model or Band Model. According to this model, it is assumed that the electrons in the filled orbitals are localized.

In contrast, the atomic orbitals containing the valence electrons overlap to form a new set of delocalized orbitals known as molecular orbitals. The electrons travel around the metals crystals around these orbitals. The empty molecular orbital equal in energy to the partially filled molecular orbitals explains the electrical conductivity of the metals. The partially filled molecular orbitals are conduction bands to welcome the traveling electron incoming from the valence band.

In the case of the metals, the energy gap between the two bands is the lowest, so the electron travels quickly from the valence band to the conduction band, and the conduction of the electricity takes place. Contrary to this, the energy gap between the valence band and conduction band in the case of insulators is most significant, and there is no chance of moving electrons, so conduction of the electricity does not occur through the insulators.

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Can Iron Conduct Electricity?

Yes, iron conducts electricity due to its metallic nature and the availability of free electrons. The atoms in a metal such as iron are held together by a metallic bond. According to the Electron Sea Model of the metallic solids, each bit in a metal crystal, for example, iron loses all valence electrons to form a sea of the valence electrons. These electrons are held by the charged iron ions and give conducting property to the iron when we connect a battery terminal. We can also explain the conducting property of Iron metal on the Molecular Orbital Model or Band Model. According to this, there is the lowest energy gap between the valence band and conduction band, making the electrons move from the valence to conduction as the battery is connected, so the conduction occurs. 

Metals are Good Conductors of Electricity Because?

Metals are a good conductor of electricity because of the availability of free electrons to move from their valence band to the conduction band as there is the lowest energy gap between the two bands.

Elements that are Good Conductors of Heat and Electricity are?

The elements that are good conductors of heat and electricity are known as metals. The typical elements that are good conductors of heat and electricity are Alkali Metals, Alkaline Earth Metals, and Transition Metals. The transition metals are the most prominent and widely used metallic elements globally. Silver, the best conductor of electricity, tungsten in bulb filament, and copper wires are also transition metals as elemental forms.

A Metal String that Brings Electricity to Your House

The metal string that brings electricity to your house is usually made of copper as it is ductile and resistant to heat. Although silver is a better conductor than copper, copper is preferred due to its inexpensiveness. Aluminum, Brass (an alloy of copper and zinc), iron, and tin also conduct electricity.

Igor Milosevic
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