You find examples of physics almost everywhere around you. Have you ever got the electric shock when you touch a live wire? Why does that even happen? Why don’t you get the same shock when you are holding a plastic stick to touch the wire? The reason is simple and we will discuss it all in the following chapter. In this chapter, we will cover everything about a conductor and insulators so that you are in a better position to understand their phenomena.
What are Conductors?
Conductors are substances that allow electricity to pass through them freely. The reason behind this is that these substances contain many atoms that have loosely bound outermost electrons or valence electrons.
Metals are good conductors of electricity. Metals have a number of valence electrons or even a single valence electron which are loosely bound. In an electric circuit, these electrons can freely move around the circuit with a domino-like effect. Metals are found towards the right of the periodic table.
Can you name a metal which you are familiar with which is used in electrical wiring? Copper is the metal that is primarily used for electrical wiring because each copper atom has only one valence electron which can be easily freed. Thus, it can easily be harnessed in electricity as it is an excellent conductor.
Can you think of a few substances which are conductors of electricity? Nails, safety pins, iron rods, etc, are a few examples of conductors of electricity. The human body is also a conductor of electricity. Thus, we need to be extra cautious that we do not get an electric shock. We need to take due precautions when dealing with electricity. Now you realize what we said in the introduction paragraph. Don’t you?
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What are Insulators?
Insulators are just the opposite of conductors. They are substances or materials that do not conduct electricity. Insulators inhibit the easy passage of electrons from atom to atom and thus do not allow electric current to pass through them.
The elements present in the left of the periodic table are non-metals and are mainly insulators. Substances which are largely made up of such elements are insulators. The insulating materials or elements have the valence electrons tightly bound. These electrons cannot be freed or loosened. They are poor conductors of electricity.
A few examples of insulators are erasers, paper, glass, and cotton. Insulating material made of glass or any other good insulator may be used in between electric wiring as a protective barrier and to prevent shock. What about dry air? Dry air is also a poor conductor of electricity. Rubber and glass are one of the strongest insulators.
Apart from conductors and insulators, there are also semiconductors like silicon and geranium. They occur in a zigzag pattern on the periodic table and are known as metalloids. They separate metals and non-metals in the periodic table.
Question For You
Q. Why is copper used in electrical wiring?
Ans: Copper is the metal that is primarily used for electrical wiring because each copper atom has only one valence electron which can be easily freed. Thus, it can easily be harnessed in electricity as it is an excellent conductor.