Electrical Conductivity (Encyclopedia of Science)
Electrical conductivity is the ability of a material to carry the flow of an electric current (a flow of electrons). Imagine that you attach the two ends of a battery to a bar of iron and a galvanometer. (A galvanometer is an instrument for measuring the flow of electric current.) When this connection is made, the galvanometer shows that electric current is flowing through the iron bar. The iron bar can be said to be a conductor of electric current.
Replacing the iron bar in this system with other materials produces different galvanometer readings. Other metals also conduct an electric current, but to different extents. If a bar of silver or aluminum is used, the galvanometer shows a greater flow of electrical current than with the iron bar. Silver and aluminum are better conductors of electricity than is iron. If a lead bar is inserted, the galvanometer shows a lower reading than with iron. Lead is a poorer conductor of electricity than are silver, aluminum, or iron.
Many materials can be substituted for the original iron bar that will produce a zero reading on the galvanometer. These materials do not permit the flow of electric current at all. They are said to be nonconductors, or insulators. Wood, paper, and most plastics are common examples of insulators.
(The entire section is 1094 words.)
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