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Electrical Conductivity of Elements and other Materials

Elements ability to conduct electric current

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  • Conductors are materials with loosely attached valence electrons - electrons can drift freely between the atoms
  • Insulators have structures where the electrons are bound to the atoms by ionic or covalent bonds - almost no current can flow
  • Semiconductors are insulating materials where the bonds can be broken with applied voltage - electrons can be released and moved from one vacated valence site to another.

Electrical Conductivity

Electrical conductivity or specific conductivity is the measure of a material's ability to conduct electric current. Conductivity is the reciprocal (inverse) of electrical resistivity.

Electrical conductivity is defined as the ratio of the current density to the electric field strength and can be expressed as

 σ = J / E                          (1)

where

σ = electrical conductivity (1/ohms m, 1/Ω m, siemens/m, S/m, mho/m)

J = current density (amps/m2)

E = electric field strength (volts/m)

One siemens - S - is equal to the reciprocal of one ohm and is also referred to as one mho.

Electrical Conductivity of some Common Materials

MaterialElectrical Conductivity
- σ -
(1/Ω m, S/m, mho/m)
Aluminum 37.7 106
Beryllium 31.3 106
Cadmium 13.8 106
Calcium 29.8 106
Chromium 7.74 106
Cobalt 17.2 106
Copper 59.6 106
Copper - annealed 58.0 106
Gallium 6.78 106
Gold 45.2 106
Iridium 19.7 106
Iron 9.93 106
Indium 11.6 106
Lithium 10.8 106
Magnesium 22.6 106
Molybdenum 18.7 106
Nickel 14.3 106
Niobium 6.93 106
Osmium 10.9 106
Palladium 9.5 106
Platinum 9.66 106
Potassium 13.9 106
Rhenium 5.42 106
Rhodium 21.1 106
Rubidium 7.79 106
Ruthenium 13.7 106
Silver 63 106
Sodium 21 106
Strontium 7.62 106
Tantalum 7.61 106
Technetium 6.7 106
Thallium 6.17 106
Thorium 6.53 106
Tin 9.17 106
Tungsten 18.9 106
Zinc 16.6 106
Seawater 4.5  - 5.5
Water - Drinking 0.0005 - 0.05
Water - Deionized 5.5 10-6
  • 1 S/m = 104 μS/cm = mho/m

  • 1 S/cm = 10-2 S/m

  • 1 1/Ω m = S/m = 3.28 1/Ω ft = 3.28 S/ft

Electrical Conductivity of Elements relative to Silver

ElementElectrical Conductivity relative to Silver
Silver 100.0
Copper 97.6
Gold 76.6
Aluminum 63.0
Tantalum 54.6
Magnesium 39.4
Sodium 32.0
Beryllium 31.1
Barium 30.6
Zinc 29.6
Indium 27.0
Cadmium 24.4
Calcium 21.8
Rubidium 20.5
Cesium 20.0
Lithium 18.7
Molybdenum 17.6
Cobalt 16.9
Uranium 16.5
Chromium 16.0
Manganese 15.8
Iron 14.6
Platinum 14.4
Tin 14.4
Tungsten 14.0
Osmium 14.0
Titanium 13.7
Iridium 13.5
Ruthenium 13.2
Nickel 12.9
Rhodium 12.6
Palladium 12.0
Steel 12.0
Thallium 9.1
Lead 8.4
Columbium 5.1
Vanadium 5.0
Arsenic 4.9
Antimony 3.6
Mercury 1.8
Bismuth 1.4
Tellurium 0.0

Electrical Conductivity of Highly Purified Water

Electrical conductivity of highly purified water

Electrical Resistivity

Conductivity is the reciprocal (inverse) of electrical resistivity. Electrical resistivity can be expressed as

ρ = 1 / σ                   (2)

where 

ρ = electrical resistivity (ohm m2/m, ohm m)

Resistance of a Conductor

The resistance for a conductor can be expressed as

R = ρ l / A                      (3)

where

R = resistance (ohms, Ω)

l = length of conductor (m)

A = cross sectional area of conductor (m2)

Example - Resistance of a Wire

The resistance of 1000 m copper wire gauge #10 with cross sectional area 5.26 mm2 can be calculated as

R = (1.724 x 10-8 ohm m2/m) (1000 m) / ((5.26 mm2) (10-6 m2/mm2)) 

   = 3.2 ohm

Resistivity and Conductivity Conversion

Grains/gal
as CaCO3
ppm
as CaCO3
ppm
NaCl
Conductivity
μmho/cm
Resistivity
MΩ/cm
99.3 1700 2000 3860 0.00026
74.5 1275 1500 2930 0.00034
49.6 850 1000 1990 0.00050
24.8 425 500 1020 0.00099
9.93 170 200 415 0.0024
7.45 127 150 315 0.0032
4.96 85.0 100 210 0.0048
2.48 42.5 50 105 0.0095
0.992 17.0 20 42.7 0.023
0.742 12.7 15 32.1 0.031
0.496 8.50 10 21.4 0.047
0.248 4.25 5.0 10.8 0.093
0.099 1.70 2.0 4.35 0.23
0.074 1.27 1.5 3.28 0.30
0.048 0.85 1.00 2.21 0.45
0.025 0.42 0.50 1.13 0.88
0.0099 0.17 0.20 0.49 2.05
0.0076 0.13 0.15 0.38 2.65
0.0050 0.085 0.10 0.27 3.70
0.0025 0.042 0.05 0.16 6.15
0.00099 0.017 0.02 0.098 10.2
0.00070 0.012 0.015 0.087 11.5
0.00047 0.008 0.010 0.076 13.1
0.00023 0.004 0.005 0.066 15.2
0.00012 0.002 0.002 0.059 16.9
  • grains/gal = 17.1 ppm CaCO3

Electrical Conductivity of Aqueous Solutions

Electrical conductivity of aqueous solutions like

  • NaOH4 - Caustic soda
  • NH4Cl - Ammonium chloride, Sal ammoniac
  • NaCl2 - Common salt
  • NaNO3 - Sodium nitrate, Chilean saltpetre
  • CaCl2 - Calcium chloride
  • ZnCl2 - Zinc chloride
  • NaHCO3 - Sodium bicarconate, baking soda
  • Na2CO3 - Sodium carbonate, soda ash
  • CuSO4 - Copper sulfate, blue vitriol

Electrical conductivity of aqueous solutions

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