How & Why Do Metals Conduct Electricity?

20 Jan, 2021 288 15 minutes

Why Are Metals Good Conductors? Know from Experts

Metals and electricity share a great relationship together. Being a science student, you have to understand that it is the basic concept that you have to clear before writing the assignment. There are a lot of students who have queries regarding this topic : why do metals conduct electricity. In metals, electrons allow electricity to move around the atoms. Pure metals tend to provide the best conductivity, and impurities restrict the flow of electrons. It is the reason that alloys are the poor conductors of electricity.

Generally, copper is the best material used for cooking. Copper utensils conduct electricity very fast as comparedto aluminum. Copper wires are mostly used on daily basis. Well, there are complications that students face related to metals, electrons, and conductors. If you are also facing issues in the same, then no worries. There are experts of Global Assignment Help Australia who have expertise in the field of academics and will help you with all your queries regarding science assignment writing.

You may also like to read: 18 Types Of Chemical Elements Bound For Fireworks Colors

Let's have a look at this blog, as it covers everything about metals and electricity.

What Is Metallic Bonding?

Metallic bonding is a type of chemical bonding that arises from the electrostatic attraction force between the electrons and ions. It is a concept that students are studying from school time but still are confused in grad school. Whenever this question comes, the answer is metallic bonding has a sea of electrons. Metal atoms share their outer electron because of the quantum interactions. It is like super-covalent; electrons orbit around all the metal atoms instead of the specific atom. The metal atoms are aligned in a repeating pattern,and theremaining space is filled with electrons that can move freely. All the metal ions give up electrons to a different atom in ionic bonding. For instance; Na+ will have one electron in the electron sea, per Na atom. Al3+ will have three free electrons per aluminum atom.

Metallic bonding has an electrostatic force. Each atom is positively and negatively charged. It acts like glue thatbinds the atoms collectively. Thisis why metals have so many properties, such as:

  • Malleability
  • Ductility
  • High Melting Point
  • Strength
  • Shininess
  • Thermal & Electrical Conductivity

Metallic is a unique type of bonding, arising from quantum-mechanical consequences that make metals act like metals. Possibly a more natural way to understand metallic bonding is by reading the band-gap.

Let's take a read.

Band Gap:

It helps us understanding conductors, semiconductors, and insulators. For every single element, there are some energy levels that electronsexists in. The energized element between the stages is enough to leave the atom completely. A piece of metal consists of a large number of atoms and electrons. It allows each atom to merge into a band of states. It is known as a valence band. The collection of energy states where the electrons have enough energy to leave the atom is called a conduction band. The distance between both bands is the band-gap. The size of the band-gap is the difference between metals, insulators, and semiconductors.

Metals Have No Band-Gap

In other words, the conduction band and valence band overlap, so an atom is not bound to any particular atom. If it has enough energy to leave, it leaves.

Semiconductors Have a Small Band-Gap

It means that if the electrons do not have enough energy to jump across the band-gap, the semiconductor does not conduct at all. The material conducts enough energy to pass the barrier. Semiconductors are super useful because they can act as switches, can pass 0% or 100% of the current.

Insulators Have a Large Band-Gap

The distinction between insulators and semiconductor is a bit nebulous. It is not like scientists have a simple value, and if the band gap is larger than that value, it’s an insulator. These terms are considered as an insulator that has a band-gap that is too large to cross in a realistic scenario. Trying to pass too much current through many insulators will destroy the material before electrons have enough energy to jump across the band-gap.

You can also read: 7 Facts About Periodic Table 

Why Do Metals Conduct Electricity?

Now, when you are familiar with the metallic bonding and band-gap, it will be easy for you to knowwhy do metals conduct electricity. Metals transfer electricity due to the flow of electrically charged particles or electrons. The atoms of metals consist of valence electrons that are present in the outer shell to move freely. These valence electrons transmit electricity and heat.

When electricity is applied to the metal, the valence electrons gain energy. It is the energy required by the electron to move off from its regular orbit. These electrons travel through the web that forms the physical structure of the metal. Under the electric field, the electrons move like the billiard balls knocking against each other, thereby passing the charge as they move. Metals can conduct the maximum amount of electricity when there is no resistance. It is the reason that pure metals are the best conductors of electricity.

Now, when you know about why do metals conduct electricity, let's have a look at the most common question:do all metals conduct electricity?

Most of the students who are pursuing science courses have to go through with the metals and conductivity. Well, conductivity is the ability to conduct energy in material via electrons and valence electrons. The more electrons are free, the more chances for better transmission. The valence and crystal structure of metals determine the rate of electrical conductivity. It is all about how well the metals transfer electricity. The rate of electrical conductivity determines by the valence and crystal structure of metals. Shape and size define the electrical conductivity of a metal. Here is a list of metals in the order of most to least conductive. Let's take a read.

  • Silver
  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Aluminum
  • Zinc
  • Nickel
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Iron
  • Platinum
  • Carbon steel
  • Lead
  • Stainless steel

Why Are Metals Good Conductors?

The reason why metals are good conductors is the nature of their electrons. In metals, all the atoms are shared with the outer, valence, and electrons. These electrons are known as delocalized, as they do not belong to any single atom or bond. Metals have an ordered, crystalline structure below their melting points. Electrons stay in energy levels, but they only remain in certain ones with particular energies. In a metal, all the atoms are the same, and the valence electrons are all at the same level and are free to move. There is a conduction band that is a higher energy level.

  • In metals, the two bands overlap such that it is easy to collide an electron up a level. The heat or electricity is applied to the metal electrons, elevated from the valence band to the conduction band. It helps them to move through the metal leading to an electric current or heat conduction.
  • In non-metals, the valence band and conduction band have an out-sized gap between them, so it takes much more energy to urge an electron into the conduction band. Thus, they are good electrical insulators. Metalloids, or semi-metals, are somewhere in between, resulting in their ability to conduct heat and electricity, but only a better deal of energy is added.

Delocalized valence electrons can transfer heat energy as well as electric current, making metals excellent heat conductors. The metal ions are packed tightly within the crystalline structure. As the atoms vibrate more with kinetic energy, they're ready to pass that energy through the fabric more easily.

You may also like to read: 5 Greatest Physicists of All Time to Question your Mind

What Metals Make Good Conductors of Electricity?

Electric conductors maintain movable electrically chargedparticles known as electrons. When the electric charge applies to metal at various points, the electrons move and pass the electricity. Metals with high electron mobility are good conductors, and the others are not good conductors.

Let's have a look at the good conductors of electricity.

Copper & Silver Are the Most Common

Silver is the best conductor of electricity because it contains a higher number of free electrons. A material is known as a good conductor only if the electrons can move freely in the metal and electricity can pass smoothly. However, it is the most expensive material than the other ones. Copper is less conductive as compared to silver but it is a cheaper and effective conductor in household appliances. Most wires are copper-plated, and electromagnet cores are wrapped with copper wire.

Aluminum Works Well But Holds Risks

Aluminumis the more conductive material than copper when compared by unit weight, and it costs less. This material is used in household and in wiring, but it is not a preference of the people because it has numerous flaws. It has a tendency to develop an electrical resistant oxide surface to overheat the connection. It is commonly inserted in phone cables; also encased in stell for additional protection.

Gold Is Effective But Expensive

Gold is a good conductor of electricity. It does not smudge like other metals when exposed to the air. For instance, steel or copper oxidize when comes in contact with oxygen. Gold is extraordinarily expensive and is used for special materials, such as circuit board elements or small electrical connectors. Some materials have gold plating as an electric conductor or use a small amount of gold, which is then plated in another material to reduce manufacturing costs.

Steel and Brass Alloys Have Special Uses

Steel is an inflexible conductor and highly corrosive when exposed to air. It is basically an alloy of iron. It is very difficult to cast as it is not used for small products or machines. It is majorly used to encase other conductors in a large amount and structure.

Brass is also an alloy metal that makes it easy to bend and mold into several parts for smaller machines. It is less destructive and more conductive than steel. It is cheaper to purchase and still retains value after usage. Steel alloy is only valuable when first bought.

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