Physics

Difference Between Conductors and Insulators in Tabular Form

Conductors and Insulators Difference

Conductors are defined as the materials or substances that allow electricity to flow through them. Also, conductors allow heat to be transmitted through them.

Conductors and Insulators Difference
Conductors and Insulators Difference
ConductorsInsulators
Electric charge exists on the surface of conductors.Electric charges are absent in insulators.

In physics and electrical engineering, all materials can be classified as conductors or insulators using the band theory of solids.

In other words, they can be divided into two distinct groups based on whether the material is a good conductor of electricity or not.

Before we get into the meat of the matter, let’s take a look at the two in a table. Let’s get started!

Difference Between Conductors and Insulators

 ConductorsInsulators
1.Materials that conduct electricity are conductors.Materials that do not conduct electricity are insulators.
2.In conductors, the electric field can only exist on the surface of the material but remains zero inside it.In insulators, the electric field can neither exist on the surface nor inside the material.
3.The electric charge (electrons) can move freely inside the conductors.The electric charge (electrons) cannot move freely inside the insulators.
4.They can store energy.They cannot store energy.
5.They show very high conductivity and low resistance.They show negligible conductivity and very high resistance.
6.The resistivity of conductors can vary from low to high.Insulators have very high resistivity.
7.In the case of conductors, the covalent bonds are quite weak.In the case of insulators, the covalent bonds are quite strong.
8.In conductors, the conduction band is full of electrons and the valence band is almost empty.In insulators, the valence band is full of electrons and the conduction band is almost empty.
9.Due to the overlapping between the conduction and valence band. Hence, there is no forbidden gap in conductors.Since there is no overlapping between the conduction and valence band, Hence, there is a large forbidden gap in insulators.
10.In the case of conductors, the temperature coefficient of resistance is positive.In the case of insulators, the temperature coefficient of resistance is negative.
11.Examples of conductors include silver, aluminum, iron, etc.Examples of insulators include rubber, wood, paper, etc,

You got an exact overview of these two from the above difference between conductors and insulators in tabular form. However, in order to get to know them better, let us try to understand both of them in depth. Continue reading!

What are Conductors?

Conductors are materials that allow electricity or heat to pass through them. As a result, they become electrically conductive in nature.

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Not to mention that metal-based materials are the best conductors available. Graphite, on the other hand, is the only nonmetal that can conduct electricity.

Free electrons in conductors can move freely anywhere within a conducting material. WHY? Because the valence band and conduction band of the material are overlapping. As a result, there is no forbidden gap between the layers of the conductors’ atomic structure.

Because the conductors have such high conductivity, they also have such low resistance. In other words, because of the low resistance, electrons can freely move inside a conductor when a potential difference is applied across them.

In the following section, we will look at some examples of conductors. Before we get there, let’s learn about the properties of a good conductor.

Properties of Conductors

There are so many properties of conductors. However, at the equilibrium condition, an electrical conductor shows the following properties.

  1. They have low resistance and high conductivity.
  2. The electric field inside both conductors and insulators is zero.
  3. Covalent bonds are weak, therefore, can be easily broken.
  4. The resistivity of conductors can vary from low to high.
  5. The temperature coefficient of resistance of the conductor is always positive.
  6. The charge density inside a conductor is always zero.

Types of Conductors

As I mentioned in the conductor vs insulator (tabular) section, the conductor’s resistivity can range from low to high. As a result of their resistivity, they can be divided into two categories based on the conductor definition. They are as follows:

  1. Low resistivity/high conductivity materials
  2. High resistivity/low conductivity materials

Examples of Conductors

Not to mention, the best conductor of electricity is silver. However, silver is not the most ideal choice for making a conducting material. WHY? Because it is too expensive to be used for common purposes.

Aside from silver being a good conductor of electricity, here are the top ten examples of conductors in everyday life.

  1. Aluminum
  2. Steel
  3. Mercury
  4. Brass
  5. Graphite
  6. Gold
  7. Copper
  8. Bronze
  9. Iron
  10. Platinum, etc.

Applications of Conductors

Conductors are quite useful in our day-to-day life. In other words, you can see so many real-life applications of conductors around yourself. Here is a list of conductors which are the most used ones.

  1. Copper is commonly used for making electrical appliances such as motor winding, cables, etc.
  2. Mercury is used as a conducting material in a thermometer.
  3. Silver is used for making satellites.
  4. Aluminum wires for power transmission and distribution.
  5. Aluminum foils for food storage, etc.

What Are Insulators?

Insulators are materials that do not permit the passage of heat or electricity. Not to mention that electricity flows through an insulator. WHY? Because there is no such thing as a perfect insulator. Materials made primarily of nonmetals, as opposed to conductors, are the best available insulators.

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Free electrons in insulators cannot move freely anywhere within the insulating material. WHY? Because there is no overlap between the material’s valance band and conduction band. As a result, there is a large forbidden gap between the layers of the insulators’ atomic structure.

Insulators have a high resistance because their conductivity is very low (negligible). To put it another way, electrons can never move freely inside an insulator due to the high resistance and large forbidden gap.

On the contrary, if a sufficiently large potential difference is applied across an insulator, the applied electric field can tear electrons from insulator atoms.

As a result, an insulator becomes a conductor. This property of an insulator is commonly referred to as the insulator’s breakdown voltage.

Properties of Insulators

Insulators have numerous properties. However, an insulating material exhibits the following properties when in equilibrium.

  1. They have high resistance and low conductivity.
  2. The electric field inside both conductors and insulators is zero.
  3. Covalent bonds are strong, therefore, too hard to be broken.
  4. They have high resistivity.
  5. The temperature coefficient of resistance of an insulator is negative.
  6. At the breakdown voltage, an insulator can become a conductor.

Types of Insulators

The five types of insulators used in transmission lines are as follows, based on low to medium to high voltage systems:

  1. Pin Insulator
  2. Suspension Insulator
  3. Strain Insulator
  4. Stay Insulator
  5. Shackle Insulator, etc.

Examples of Insulators

Insulators are simply a barrier or layer placed between conductors to control electrical current. So, what kinds of materials are good insulators? ANY SUGGESTIONS?

Here are the top ten examples of insulators that are actively used in our daily lives.

  1. Glass
  2. Rubber
  3. Oil
  4. Air
  5. Dry wood
  6. Fiberglass
  7. Quartz
  8. Diamond
  9. Plastic
  10. Asphalt, etc.

Applications of Insulators

Again, insulators have numerous applications in our daily lives. In fact, if you look closely, you will notice that insulators are used in your home as well. Here is a list of the most commonly used insulators.

  1. Rubber is the common insulating material used for making slippers, vehicle tires, or fire-resistant clothes, etc,
  2. PVC, Kapton, Teflon, etc for providing a protective layer to the electrical wires.
  3. Fiberglass or plastic to make printed circuit boards, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does an insulator do?

Ans. Well, what an insulator does is to oppose the flow of current. In other words, an insulator is a material that blocks or hinders the flow of electric current or heat.

2. What conducts electricity the best?

Ans. Superconductors conduct electricity the best. WHY? Because superconductors show zero resistance towards thermal heat or electricity.

3. Is plastic a conductor or insulator?

Ans. Well, plastic is by far an excellent example of an insulator. WHY? Because they can easily trap the heat inside themselves. Therefore, as a result, they are mostly used for making coffee cups.

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