CONDUCTORS AND INSULATORS. CONDUCTORS. Conductor Â is an object or type of material which permits the flow ofÂ electric chargesÂ in one or more directions. For example, aÂ wireÂ is an electrical conductor that can carry electricity along its length.
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Conductor is an object or type of material which permits the flow of electric charges in one or more directions. For example, a wire is an electrical conductor that can carry electricity along its length.
In metals such as copper or aluminum, the movable charged particles are electrons. Positive charges may also be mobile, such as the cationic electrolyte(s) of a battery, or the mobile protons of the proton conductor of a fuel cell. Insulators are non-conducting materials with few mobile charges and which support only insignificant electric currents.
Conductors contain electrical charges, which will move when an electric potential difference (measured in volts) is applied across separate points on the material. This flow of charge (measured in amperes) is what is meant by electric current. In most materials, the direct current is proportional to the voltage (as determined by Ohm's law), provided the temperature remains constant and the material remains in the same shape and state.
Copper is the most common material used for electrical wiring . Silver is the best conductor, but it is expensive. It has a resistivity of1.6×10−8Ω⋅m. Because gold does not corrode, it is used for high-quality surface-to-surface contacts. However, there are also many non-metallic conductors, including graphite, solutions of salts, and all plasmas. There are even conductive polymers.
All non-superconducting materials offer some resistance and warm up during electric currents. Proper design of an electrical conductor takes into account the temperature of the conductor as well as the value of electric current. The motion of charges creates an electromagnetic field around the conductor that exerts a mechanical radial squeezing force on the conductor. The current carrying capacity of a conductor is limited by its ability to dissipate heat. This effect is especially critical in printed circuits, where conductors are relatively small and close together, and inside an enclosure: the heat produced can melt the tracks.
Thermal and electrical conductivity often go together. For instance the sea of electrons causes most metals to act both as electrical and thermal conductors. However, some non-metallic materials are practical electrical conductors without being good thermal conductors. One of the best conductors is lead. The best, is also expensive, is Silver.
Anelectrical insulator is a material whose internal electric charges do not flow freely, and therefore does not conduct an electric current under the influence of an electric field. A perfect insulator does not exist, but some materials such as glass, paper and Teflon, which have high resistivity, are very good electrical insulators. A much larger class of materials, even though they may have lower bulk resistivity, are still good enough to insulate electrical wiring and cables. Examples include rubber-like polymers and most plastics. Such materials can serve as practical and safe insulators for low to moderate voltages (hundreds, or even thousands, of volts).
Insulators are used in electrical equipment to support and separate electrical conductors without allowing current through themselves. An insulating material used in bulk to wrap electrical cables or other equipment is called insulation. The term insulator is also used more specifically to refer to insulating supports used to attach electric power distribution or transmission lines to utility poles and transmission towers.
Insulators are commonly used as a flexible coating on electric wire and cable. Since air is an insulator, in principle no other substance is needed to keep power where it should be. High-voltage power lines commonly use just air, since a solid (e.g., plastic) coating is impractical. However, wires that touch each other produce cross connections, short circuits, and fire hazards. In coaxial cable the center conductor must be supported exactly in the middle of the hollow shield in order to prevent EM wave reflections. Finally, wires that expose voltages higher than 60V can cause human shock and electrocution hazards. Insulating coatings help to prevent all of these problems.
Some wires have a mechanical covering with no voltage rating—e.g.: service-drop, welding, doorbell, thermostat wire. An insulated wire or cable has a voltage rating and a maximum conductor temperature rating. It may not have an ampacity (current-carrying capacity) rating, since this is dependent upon the surrounding environment (e.g. ambient temperature).
In electronic systems, printed circuit boards are made from epoxy plastic and fiber glass. The nonconductive boards support layers of copper foil conductors. In electronic devices, the tiny and delicate active components are embedded within nonconductive epoxy or phenolic plastics, or within baked glass or ceramic coatings.
In microelectronic components such as transistors and ICs, the silicon material is normally a conductor because of doping, but it can easily be selectively transformed into a good insulator by the application of heat and oxygen. Oxidised silicon is quartz, i.e. silicon dioxide, the primary component of glass.