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We differentiate the elements around us based on their physical properties such as malleability, phase, texture, colour, polarity, solubility, etc. But as we know, another very important classification of elements is done on the basis of their conductivity of electric charge, i.e. conductors and insulators.

If we perform a simple experiment with a battery and a small LED bulb, we will notice that when then the electric circuit between the battery and the bulb is completed using a plastic or a cotton thread, the bulb doesn’t glow. Whereas if we perform the same experiment with the help of a metallic wire such as copper, the bulb starts to glow. This indicates that some of the elements enable the transfer of charge from the battery to the bulbs, while others do not. The basis of the classification of such elements is their electrical conductivity. Let us learn more about conductors and insulators in this comprehensive article.

What are Conductors?

In simple terms, an electrical conductor is defined as materials that allow electricity to flow through them easily. This property of conductors that allow them to conduct electricity is known as conductivity.

The flow of electrons in a conductor is known as the electric current. The force required to make that current flow through the conductor is known as voltage.

When a charge is transferred to such an element, it gets distributed across the entire surface of the object, which results in the movement of electrons in the object. The charges transferred to an electrical conductordistribute until the force of repulsion between electrons in areas of excess electrons is decreased to the minimum value. When such an object is brought in contact with another conductor, the charge gets transferred from the first conductor to the other until the overall repulsion due to charge is minimized.

Metals, humans, and earth are all conductors. This is the reason why we get electric shocks!

Examples of conductor

Graphite, the human body, and the earth are good conductors of electricity. Some of the common conductor examples include metals such as:

  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Iron

What are Insulators?

Insulators are materials that hinder the free flow of electrons from one particle of the element to another. If we transfer some amount of charge to such an element at any point, the charge remains at the initial location and does not get distributed across the surface. The common process of charging of such elements includes charging by rubbing (for some elements, with the help of suitable materials) and charging by induction.

Examples of insulators

Some of the common insulator examples are given below:

  • Plastic
  • Wood
  • Glass

Differences Between Conductor and Insulators

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

ConductorInsulator
Materials that permit electricity or heat to pass through itMaterials that do not permit heat and electricity to pass through it
A few examples of a conductor are silver, aluminum, and ironA few examples of an insulator are paper, wood, and rubber
Electrons move freely within the conductorElectrons do not move freely within the insulator
The electric field exists on the surface but remains zero on the insideThe electric field doesn’t exist