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Home – Education Resources – Science of NDT – Electricity
 
Electricity
  1. Things That Work With Electricity
  2. What is Electricity?
  3. Basic Structure of Matter
  4. Elements
  5. Atom Models
  6. Electrical Charge
  7. The Free Electron
  8. The Valence Shell
  9. How We Measure Electricity
  10. Amperage
  11. Voltage
  12. Resistance
  13. Conductors and Insulators
  14. Ohm’s Law
  15. Series and Parallel Circuits
  16. Circuit Diagrams
  17. Series Circuit
  18. Parallel Circuit
  19. Series/Parallel Circuit
  20. DC Current
  21. AC Current
  22. Electromagnetism
  23. Electrostatic Field
  24. Electromagnetic Induction
  25. Eddy Currents
  26. NDT and Eddy Current Testing
  27. Summary

CONDUCTORS AND INSULATORS

After reading this section you will be able to do the following:

  • Contrast the characteristics of conductors and insulators.
  • List examples of common conductors and insulators.
  • Explain how insulators provide protection from electricity.

In the previous pages, we have talked a bit about “conductors” and “insulators”. We will discuss these two subjects a little more before moving on to discuss circuits.

Conductors

Do you remember the copper atom that we discussed? Do you remember how its valence shell had an electron that could easily be shared between other atoms? Copper is considered to be a conductor because it “conducts” the electron current or flow of electrons fairly easily. Most metals are considered to be good conductors of electrical current. Copper is just one of the more popular materials that is used for conductors.

Other materials that are sometimes used as conductors are silver, gold, and aluminum. Copper is still the most popular material used for wires because it is a very good conductor of electrical current and it is fairly inexpensive when compared to gold and silver. Aluminum and most other metals do not conduct electricity quite as good as copper.

Insulators

Insulators are materials that have just the opposite effect on the flow of electrons. They do not let electrons flow very easily from one atom to another. Insulators are materials whose atoms have tightly bound electrons. These electrons are not free to roam around and be shared by neighboring atoms.

Some common insulator materials are glass, plastic, rubber, air, and wood.

Insulators are used to protect us from the dangerous effects of electricity flowing through conductors. Sometimes the voltage in an electrical circuit can be quite high and dangerous. If the voltage is high enough, electric current can be made to flow through even materials that are generally not considered to be good conductors. Our bodies will conduct electricity and you may have experienced this when you received an electrical shock. Generally, electricity flowing through the body is not pleasant and can cause injuries. The function of our heart can be disrupted by a strong electrical shock and the current can cause burns. Therefore, we need to shield our bodies from the conductors that carry electricity. The rubbery coating on wires is an insulating material that shields us from the conductor inside. Look at any lamp cord and you will see the insulator. If you see the conductor, it is probably time to replace the cord.

Recall our earlier discussion about resistance. Conductors have a very low resistance to electrical current while insulators have a very high resistance to electrical current. These two factors become very important when we start to deal with actual electrical circuits.

Review

  1. Conductors conduct electrical current very easily because of their free electrons.
  2. Insulators oppose electrical current and make poor conductors.
  3. Some common conductors are copper, aluminum, gold, and silver.
  4. Some common insulators are glass, air, plastic, rubber, and wood.
 
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Partial support for this work was provided by the NSF-ATE (Advanced Technological Education) program through grant #DUE 0101709.
Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Science Foundation.
 
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12 terms

Marino_Family

List of Conductors and Insulators

4th Grade – MCA

STUDY

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