Conductors and Insulators – Differences With Examples

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Conductors and insulators are the things we use in our daily life. This is the most essential part of our daily usage since we use electricity the whole day for any use. Where the flowing of electrical charges and particles move around easily, there is a conductor and insulator. We should also know the importance of an insulator, it protects us from electric current, and insulators protect us from any injury. Insulator helps in dealing with electricity without getting hurt.

Learn more about conductors and how they differ from insulators.

Definition of Conductors

A conductor is a material that contains movable electronic charges. In metallic conductors like copper, there are movable charged particles called electrons. Positive charges might also be mobile, such as the cationic electrolyte(s) of a battery or the mobile proton of the proton conductor of a fuel cell.

In simple words, a Conductor is considered an object or a  type of material that permits the flow of electrical current in one or sometimes in more directions.

Example of Conductors

  • Material such as silver is known for being the best conductor of electricity.
  • Copper, Brass, Steel, and Gold are commonly some other good conductors of electricity we use daily. 
  • Mercury is an excellent liquid conductor and a very commonly used conductor.
  • Iron is a common material used in vehicle engine manufacturing to conduct heat.

Definition of Insulator 

Any material that retains energy such as electricity, heat is called as easily transferred from an insulator. The best examples of good insulators are plastic, rubber, wood, and glass. Also, insulators are protectors. They give protection against heat, sound, and of course, the passage of electricity. Furthermore, the insulator doesn’t have any free electrons. It is the main reason why they don’t conduct electricity. 

Example of Insulators

  • Glass is the best insulator as it has the highest resistivity.
  • Plastic is a good insulator, and it finds its use in making several things.
  • Rubber is a common material used in making fires-resistant clothes, slippers. 
  • Other strong insulators are fire glass, dry paper, quartz, ceramics, and porcelain.

Differences between Conductors and Insulators

Now, let us discuss some fundamental differences between Conductors and Insulators. 

  • That Conductors let an electric current pass be easy. Whereas, Insulators do not allow the electric current to pass through them.
  • Conductors are mainly metallic, while insulators are non-metallic
  • All electrical devices are good conductors. And to avoid the passing of electric current to the human body during their handling, these devices have a covering of insulators like plastic, rubber, wood covering over them.
  •  Some examples of good conductors are iron nails, keys, water, the human body, safety pins, etc. Examples of insulators are rubber, glass, air, plastic, clothes, etc.
  • In a conductor, resistance is very low, whereas, in an insulator, the resistance is very high.
  • In magnetic fields, conductors don’t store energy, whereas insulators store energy in a magnetic field.

Figure 1: Insulator

Electrical Conductor

An electrical conductor is a type of material that allows the flow of electrical current charges. Electrical current is generated by the flow of charges like electrons, ions, positively charged holes. In simple words, it is the power to transfer electric current or heat in different directions. It allows the charges to move freely in conduction. 

Electron particles make it easy to flow electricity in the material when voltage is applied to it. Some types of conductors are good conductors, resistors, semiconductors, and non-conductors, also known as insulators. 

Some properties of Electrical Conductors

  • A conductor usually allows the independent movement of electrons and ions.
  • If the charges are to cancel inside the conductor, there must be no electric field.
  • The surface of the conductor in the electric field is perpendicular.
  • This conductor has a zero charge density.
  • Free charges exist and move only on the surface of the conductor.
  • All ends of the conductor and all the points of a conductor are at the same potential.

Examples of conductor 

  • Solid Conductor
    • The first type is Metallic Conductor, and its examples are Silver, Copper, Gold.
    • The second one is a Non-Metallic Conductor, for example, Graphite.
    • The third one is Alloy Conductor, and examples are brass, bronze, etc.
  •  Liquid conductor
    • Metallic Conductor: Mercury.
    • Non-metallic Conductor. Best examples are Acid Solution, Saline, Water, etc.

The electrical conductor is generally made of metals and with the help of their alloys. In this conductor, the charges of electrical current travel within or from atom to atom. It happens only when the voltage is applied to them, or we can say in science language that the charges travel when the potential difference is applied to them.

The electrical conductor, which is generally used for the transmission of power, is known as stranded. Stranded conductors comprise mechanical strength and great flexibility compared to a single wire of a similar cross-section area.

Types of electrical conductors

There are some types of electrical conductors we discuss here. Some of the major types of electrical conductors are explained below in detail:

  • Hard drawn copper conductor: The hard-drawn conductor provides high tensile strength, and such types of conductors have a long life, high electrical conductivity, and high scalp value. This conductor is mainly used for distribution work in the area of tapping, spans, and more.
  • Steel cored copper conductor: The steel cored copper conductor consists of one or two layers of copper strands that surround the basic steel cored copper conductor. It also adds strength to the object or conductor.
  • Copper welded conductor: The upper layer of copper is welded onto a steel wire in this type of conductor. Such a conductor carries the conductivity between the range of 30-60% of a solid copper conductor and the same diameter.
  • Smooth body ACSR conductor: The smooth body ACSR conductor is also known as a compacted ACSR conductor. The conventional is pressed with extreme pressure through them which completely flatten the aluminium to be formed as a flat or segmental shape. Without affecting or disturbing its electrical and mechanical properties the diameter of the conductor is reduced. Also, the left-out space made up by the pressed copper is filled.
  • All aluminium alloy conductor: This type of conductor is widely used in urban areas. This conductor contains the perfect combination of strength and conductivity of power. A substance is made up of one of the alloys used to make such a type of conductor. These alloys contain 0.5% magnesium, 0.5% silicon, and the left and remaining is copper.

Conclusion 

In short, conductor means material that allows easy flow of electrical particles and generates electricity. Insulators are protectors which are wrapped around the conductor to protect the human body from the current. Examples of this are mercury in the thermometer, which is used to check the human body’s temperature. Also, foils used for covering food, iron is used in all vehicles and engines for conducting heat are also considered conductors.