It’s typically a profound concept, so to clarify why silver is the best conductor of electricity, we first need to understand a few more things. Let’s take an overview of the basic theory of the atom’s structure, conduction of electricity, conductors, and its factors.
Atom is composed of three particles where the nucleus of an atom has protons and neutrons while the outer shells have electrons. These electrons are the smallest particle of the three and revolve around the nucleus. On the other hand, metal has three energy bands stated in band theory: valence, bandgap, and conduction.
When an electron gets enough energy, it jumps from the valence band to the conduction band and contributes to electrical conductivity. It is where the concept behind silver as a good electricity conductor lies. We will discuss it later after explaining some basic terminologies.
What is Conductivity?
It is the primary phenomenon of an element that is compatible to pass electricity through it. In other words, conductivity can pass the current; for example, water. A material is said to be conductive if its electrons move freely in an atom.
If we compare two materials, wood and copper, which one do you think would be the best conductor?
The latter one will conduct electrical current, and wood will not as copper has more free electrons in the material than wood.
Units of Conductivity
Conductivity is measured in Siemens per meter(S/m) and is denoted by kappa ‘k’ or sigma’ σ.’
What is Electric Current?
The current flowing due to charges is called Electric Current. Nature always has two types of charges, positive and negative. The current which flows due to a positive charge is called Hole Current. Similarly, the current which flows due to negative charge is Electron Current.
Units of Electric Current
It is measured in Ampere (A) and is denoted by the capital letter ‘I.’
Conductors, Non-Conductors, and Semiconductors
A channel that passes or conducts electricity is called a conductor. Examples of some conductors are saltwater, copper, iron, brass, bronze, silver, and gold. In conductors, the conduction band and valence band overlaps hence easing conduction.
Whereas non-conductors do not pass or conduct electricity, they are also called insulators. Plastic, paper, glass, oil, ceramic, fabric are prominent non-conductors/insulators. In non-conductors, valence and conduction bands are at a certain distance, hence stopping the conduction.
Furthermore, semiconductors do not pass electricity at room temperature but only when energy is provided. Typical examples are silicon and germanium. In semiconductors, valence and conduction bands are at a lesser distance than non-conductors hence hindering conduction.
Conductivity in Silver
Silver is a transition metal in group 11 and period 5 in the modern periodic table and has the highest electrical conductivity, followed by gold. The reason behind silver being the most conductive metal is its electronic configuration. It is the arrangement of an electron in an atom, such as 2, 8, 18, 18, and 1 electron per shell. As per the configuration, the last shell has only one electron loosely bonded with the nucleus.
This valence electron helps silver contribute to electrical conductivity by being in the conduction band. Besides, the larger size of the silver atom creates a lesser influence of the nucleus on electrons, thus, providing more conductivity.
Some Factors Increasing Conductivity
Temperature: if we increase the temperature of the metal, its electron gets excited. It starts to jump from a low energy level to a high energy level, thus increasing the conduction.
Doping: Doping is usually done in semi-conductors to increase conductivity. It is done by adding another impurity to increase electrons in the conduction band.
Increased Frequency: We can define frequency as the number of oscillation cycles covered per second by a flowing current. Silver oscillates the electrons present in it right after electricity passes through it. Therefore, the increase or decrease in frequency changes the conductivity accordingly.
Alteration of Structure: The shape of silver greatly influences its conductivity, as metals with a better crystal structure are good conductors. Hence, changes in the composition of silver can affect its electrical conductivity.
We hope to clear your conflicts regarding silver and its conductivity. There are several suitable metals with their electrical conductivities, but silver comes on top. People utilize this element in different industrial processes, but in a limited range, to help enhance their work. Moreover, the element is a bit costly too.
Amna being a Physicist wants to share her subject expertise and knowledge with people. Amna is a highly energetic and motivated lecturer as well.