Metals are good conductors of electricity, how? To understand it, you must know what a metal is defined as. Metals are those materials which have plenty of movable electrically charged particles known as “electrons”. Electrons shift when an electric charge is applied to a metal at specific locations, allowing electricity to pass through. High electron mobility materials are good conductors, whereas low electron mobility materials are not good conductors and are referred to as “insulators.” Metals are electrically conductive and have a low resistance. Since metals are made up of a lattice of atoms with free electrons, they are good conductors. A current will flow through the free electrons. When a negative charge is applied at one end, the electrons are repelled by it and travel to the opposite end. Electricity must be able to move electrons through a material to make it a good conductor; more the number of free electrons in a metal, better conductivity it will have.
Why metals are good conductors of electricity?
Powerful metallic bonds hold metal particles together due to which they have high melting and boiling points. Metals can conduct electricity and their free electrons can pass through them. The electrons in the higher energy levels of the atoms can easily detach from the atoms as their binding energy is less due to increased distance from nucleus, allowing them to be pulled out with very little energy. Since the metal’s molecular structure allows ‘free electrons’ to travel freely, it is classified as electrically conductive. Here, some conductors and insulators are discussed according to their properties.
Copper: Copper is a conductor which is used in electrical wiring, because it is a strong conductor of electricity. Since it has a higher number of free electrons. Copper is less conductive than platinum, but it is less expensive and is widely used in household appliances as a conductor. The majority of wires are copper-plated, and the cores of electromagnets are typically wrapped in copper wire.
Gold: Gold is a good electric conductor and does not discolor itself like other metals when exposed to the air like steel or copper may oxidize when they are in contact with oxygen. Gold is very expensive metal and is only used for certain materials like circuit board components or small electrical connectors. Some materials are just gold plated to make them electric conductor.
Silver: Silver, on the other hand, is more costly than other materials and is only used in advanced devices such as satellites or circuit boards. Silver is not commonly used for its conductive properties since it is a highly expensive and sought-after material.
Glass: Since the atoms have electrons that are tightly bound to each other, glass is used as an insulator.
Aluminum: Aluminum Works Well but is is risky to work with it, so it is not too common. Aluminum is actually more conductive than copper and its cost is also low. The reason why it is not too common is that it has numerous structural defects e.g. it can cause the connection to get overheated as it has tendency to form electrically resistant oxide surface in electrical connections. However, it is used in high-voltage transmission lines like phone cables which can be encased in steel for further shield.
Brass: Brass is a tensile steel alloy, which makes it simple to bend and shape into various parts for smaller machines. It is less corrosive than steel, slightly more conductive, less expensive and maintains its value after use, while steel alloy is only useful when purchased firstly.
Steel: Steel is an iron alloy that is also a conductor. When exposed to air, it is extremely corrosive. Steel is used to encase other conductors because it is difficult to cast and is not used in small devices.