Best Conductor Of Electricity List

What is electrical conductivity?

The ability of current to flow through any material is called electrical conductivity. Some elements, such as most metals, have high electrical conductivity, thus current can flow through them and you can get electrocuted. Other materials like wood, rubber, and paper are not good conductors. They are what you can call an insulator because they do not let the current pass through them.

Electrical conductivity can also be called specific conductance as it is the intrinsic property of an individual material. It varies from material to material. Every atom has some electrons in its valence shell. The conductivity varies with the size of an atom and how far the electrons are from the nucleus. When electrons are in the last shell, the nuclear attraction is relatively less and even a little bit of electric force would be enough to move them.

These free electrons are called mobile electrons or cloud of electrons. When a battery is attached to a bar of, say, iron, the electrons start moving toward the electropositive end of the battery.

From the electronegative end, more electrons flow out, which repel further electrons from the bar. This cycle goes on, and electric current is generated. This phenomenon can't happen in an insulator as the electrons are tightly packed and nuclear attraction is high. Thus, there are no free electrons to move around.

Furthermore, quantum mechanics suggest that electrons can only occupy a discrete level of energy in an atom. When the atom releases a lot of energy, electrons have to jump to another orbit to get to that energy level. However, not all electrons can jump to another level. These remaining electrons can move, causing electronic conductivity.

Factors that affect electrical conductivity

If the temperature is changed, the conductivity is affected. Increasing temperature causes the atoms to become excited, ultimately increasing conductivity and now, the electrons don’t need as much energy to get out of the atom.

Conductivity decreases when impurities are added to an element because they hinder the flow of electron. Conductivity might vary in different structures. Furthermore, it will slow down at the interface in different phases of the material.

When electricity is running through the material, it produces an electromagnetic field. The magnetic and electric fields are perpendicular to each other. The flow of current decreases because of the production of magnetoresistance from the external electromagnetic field.

After a certain level, the frequency causes the current to flow around the material instead of flowing through it. This is called the skin effect. This effect does not occur in direct current as there is no oscillation, so no frequency is produced.

What is the best conductor of electricity?

The best conductor of electricity is silver followed by copper and gold due to its crystal structure and bonds. There is a lack of covalent character. It has lattice structure, which allow easier flow of electrons through it.

Moreover, it has a larger size than most atoms, making its valence shell further away from the nucleus. The influence of the nucleus decreases on valence electrons because the rest of the electrons are in the way, causing the shielding effect. Silver is 105% conductive.

Is copper conductive?

The most commonly known conductor of electricity is copper. It has a conductivity of 100%. One of the reasons for copper being a good conductor is that its valence shell is far from the nucleus. As a result, it is relatively easier for the electrons to free themselves with minimum force. The outermost shell of a copper atom is only half filled so that many electrons can flow.

If it is attached to a battery, the electrons leave the atoms and move toward the electropositive end, creating electricity. Copper is widely used, even though silver is a better conductor because it is a lot cheaper, more durable, and less corrosive. Copper is used for making wires because of its availability and price as compared to the other conductors.

Is gold conductive?

Gold is a good conductor of electricity. Gold has a conductivity of 70%. Like silver and copper, it has the same structure of atom. There is a relatively larger gap between the valence electrons and nucleus, which causes the nuclear attraction to decrease. These valence electrons, thus, have the freedom to move.

When they are near an electric field, they start moving toward the positive end, which creates current. Although gold is not as good a conductor as silver or copper, it is still used because it is less corrosive and more durable than silver.

Is aluminum conductive?

Aluminum is a good conductor of electricity with it having 61%. A regular lattice of positive ions is formed around the electrons when they become delocalized. These electrons have the freedom to move.

When the metal is subjected to voltage, it causes the free electrons to move toward the positive end, while more electrons enter from the negative end. This cycle causes the flow of electrons and thus, electricity is generated and conducted.

Is brass conductive?

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Due to it not being a pure metal, its conductivity is a lot lower than copper. Brass is 28% conductive. Even though brass is not the best conductor, it is usually used as a standard to compare other metals with. The conductivity of brass increases as the ratio of copper to zinc increases. The more brass is mixed in the alloy, the more conductive it becomes.

Is zinc conductive?

Zinc is another conductor of electricity. Like all the other metals, it has a cloud of an electron because of the free electrons in the valence shell. These electrons are easier to move.

When some electric force is applied, the electrons start moving toward the positive end due to the attraction. This causes the flow of electrons and, ultimately, the generation of electricity. Zinc one has 27%

Is nickel conductive?

Nickel does conduct electricity. As mentioned before, it also has valence electrons that can flow through the metal when an electric force is applied to it through a battery or any other source. The conductivity in nickel is 22%, which is on the lower side.

Pure nickel is highly conductive, but when impurities are added to it, the conductivity goes down. Pure nickel is, thus, used in making wires and battery component. Nickel and zinc plating for electrolytic solutions is also very famous.

As we know that brass is not as conductive as copper, increasing the brass content doesn’t enhance the conductivity of brass.

Is iron conductive?

Iron is not as good a conductor, but if we talk about iron conductivity in general, it can be considered a fairly good conductor of electricity with it being 17% conductive. Its resistance is 9.7 micro-ohm cm. Iron, being a metal, also has free electrons in its valence shell that, with some force from the attached battery, start flowing through it.

Even then, it is not such a good conductor. Another reason is its structure which doesn’t give much space for the electrons to move around because the atoms are tightly packed.

Is platinum conductive?

Platinum, also known as white gold has a relative conductivity of approximately 16.5% as it has almost five times more resistance in its atom than gold. It is a highly unreactive compound which means that the electrons take a lot of force to get excited and start moving around. Only at a certain level can platinum conduct electricity when its electrons become mobile.

Is bronze conductive?

Bronze, like brass, is an alloy of copper with tin mixed in it. It has a conductivity of 15%. Other metals and nonmetals are also added to it sometimes. Just like brass, bronze’s conductivity depends on how much copper is present in the alloy.

The bronze alloy, however, is more known for its durability than its conductive properties because of the number of impurities present in it.

Is lead conductive?

Pure lead has 7% electrical conductivity. It also follows the free electron principle where the electron moves around and flows because of the repulsion caused by the electron from the electricity source. It is typically used in the connectors of the batteries of cars.

Is stainless steel conductive?

Stainless steel is 3% conductive. Like normal steel, stainless steel is quite a poor conductor of electricity and has significantly lower conductivity than copper.

Even then, it is widely used because it has a high corrosion resistivity because of the carbon content present in it. It causes galvanic corrosion in other metals if they are in close contact with it, but it would remain unaffected.

Electrical Conductivity Table

RankingElectrical Conductor Conductivity Percentage  
1Silver105%
2Copper100%
3Gold70%
4Aluminum61%
5Brass28%
6Zinc27%
7Nickel22%
8Iron17%
9Platinum16.5%
10Bronze15%
11Lead7%
12Stainless Steel3%
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