A conductor is an object or material that allows for the flow of electrical current. Electrical current flows, in one or more directions. Metals are commonly used electrical conductors. Electrical current is generated via the flow of negatively charged electrons, positively charged holes, and positive or negative ions in some cases.

How Conductors Work[edit | edit source]

For current to flow, it isn't necessary for one charged particle to travel from the source of the current to that which is consuming it. Rather, the charged particle needs to 'nudge' its neighbor a finite amount who will nudge its neighbor and on and on until a particle is nudged into the consumer, thus powering the machine. Essentially what is occurring is a chain of momentum transfer between mobile charge carriers; the Drude model of conduction describes this process in depth. This momentum transfer model makes metal an ideal choice for a conductor because metals possess delocalized space of electrons which gives the electrons enough mobility to collide and thus effect a momentum transfer. To put it more simply, metals are good conductors because they have unfilled space in the valence energy band. Conduction in metals and resistors is well described by Ohm's Law, which states that the current is proportional to the applied electric field.

Other devices, such as the cationic electrolytes, of a battery or the mobile protons of the proton conductor of a fuel cell must rely on positive charge carriers. Insulators are non-conducting materials with few mobile charges that support only insignificant electric currents.

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gallium arsenide solar cells

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