Conductors Insulators


Physical qualities such as malleability, phase, texture, colour, polarity, solubility, and others let us distinguish the components around us. But, as we all know, another major classification of elements is based on their electric charge conductivity, i.e. (1) Conductors and (2) Insulators.


An electrical conductor is described as a material that allows electricity to flow freely through it. Conductivity is the property of conductors that allows them to conduct electricity. The electric current is the flow of electrons in a conductor. Voltage is the force required to make that current flow through the conductor.

When a charge is applied to such an element, it is dispersed across the full surface of the object, causing electrons to move around inside. When one of these objects comes into contact with another. Conductors include metals, humans, and the earth. Metals such as the following are examples of common conductors: Gold, iron, copper.


Insulators stop electrons from freely passing from one element particle to the next. When a charge is applied to such an element at any point on the surface, the charge remains in the same spot and does not spread across the entire surface. The most common technique of charging such components is by rubbing them together (for some elements, with the help of suitable materials).

The following are some examples of common insulators: Plastic, wood, glass.

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Conductors & Insulators

Conductors are materials that allow electrons to freely flow from particle to particle. A conducting object allows charge to be transferred across its entire surface. If charge is transferred to an object at a specific location, it is quickly distributed across the entire surface of the object. Electron movement causes charge distribution.

As conductors allow electrons to be transported from particle to particle, a charged object will always distribute its charge until the overall repulsive forces between excess electrons are minimised. A charged conductor can even transfer its charge to another object if it is touched. Charge transfer between objects occurs more easily if second object is made of a conducting material.

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Strength of Conductivity and Classification

Conductors enable charge transfer by allowing electrons to move freely. Insulators, in contrast to conductors, are materials that obstruct the free flow of electrons from atom to atom and molecule to molecule. If excess charge is transferred to an insulator at a given location, the excess charge will remain at the initial charging location.

As insulator particles do not allow electrons to flow freely, charge is rarely distributed evenly across the surface of an insulator. While insulators are not useful for transferring charge, they play an important role in electrostatic experiments and demonstrations. Conductive objects are frequently mounted on insulating objects. This arrangement of a conductor on top of an insulator prevents charge from being transferred from the conductive object to its surroundings.

Key Differences Between Conductor and Insulator

Some key conductor and insulator differences are given in the table below

Conductors Insulators

Electrons can freely move between atoms in conductors.

Insulators prevent electrons from moving freely from one atom to the next.

The free electrons present in conductors allow them to conduct electricity.

The densely bound electrons found within atoms act as insulators, insulating electricity.

These materials have the ability to conduct electricity.

Electrical current cannot flow through insulating materials.

Atoms can't keep their electrons strongly bound.

Atoms are unable to transfer electrical energy due to their closely bonded electrons.

High conductivity is characteristic of materials that are good conductors.

Low conductivity is characteristic of good insulating materials.

Copper, aluminium, silver, iron, and other metals are good conductors.

Rubber, glass, ceramic, plastic, asphalt, and pure water are examples of common insulators.

Distribution of Charge via Electron Movement

Predicting the direction of electron movement within a conducting material is a straightforward application of the two fundamental rules of charge interaction. Likes attract and dislikes repel. Assume that a method is used to apply a negative charge to an object at a specific location. There is an excess of electrons at the location where the charge is imparted.

That is, the atoms in that region have more electrons than protons. Of course, there are a few electrons who could be considered content because there is a positively charged proton nearby to satisfy their attraction for an opposite. However, the so-called excess electrons dislike each other and would prefer more space.

Electrons, like humans, want to manipulate their surroundings to reduce repulsive effects. Because these excess electrons are present in a conductor, they have little difficulty migrating to other parts of the object. That is precisely what they do. A mass migration of excess electrons occurs across the entire surface of the object in an effort to reduce the overall repulsive effects within the object. Excess electrons migrate to get away from their repulsive neighbours. In this sense, it is said that excess negative charge spreads across the conductor's surface.

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Many atoms in the charging region have lost one or more electrons and have an excess of protons. The imbalance of charge within these atoms produces effects that can be thought of as disrupting the balance of charge within the entire object. The presence of these excess protons in a given location attracts electrons from other atoms. Electrons in other parts of the object can be thought of as content with the charge balance that they are experiencing.


Some electrons will always be drawn to the excess protons some distance away. However, electrons are loosely bound within atoms and are free to move when present in a conductor. These electrons move in search of the extra protons, leaving their own atoms with an excess of positive charge. This electron migration occurs across the entire surface of the object until the sum of repulsive effects between electrons across the entire surface of the object is minimised.


Q1. Which of the following is the most conductive element?

(1) Copper

(2) Iron

(3) Silicon

(4) Silver

A. Silver is the most conductive element.

Q2. Why are metals a preferred choice of material for making electrical wires?

A. Metals are a preferred choice of material for making electrical wire because they are good conductors of electricity.

Q3. The material that has a resistance of zero is known as a _____.?

A. Superconductor

Q4. What is a semiconductor?

A. A semiconductor is a material whose electrical conductivity falls between that of a conductor and an insulator. Example, Germanium and Silicon

Q5. What is the purpose of lightning rods?

A. The purpose of a lightning rod is to protect structures from lightning damages by blocking the surges and guiding their currents to the ground.

Q6. What are the factors that affect the resistivity of a conductor?

A. The resistivity of a conductor depends on temperature and material of the conductor.


Simply Easy Learning

Updated on: 13-Oct-2022


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