Why does Metal Conduct Electricity

Does metal conduct electricity? One of the biggest enigmas about life is finding out the reason why metals are able to conduct electricity. Many people do not seem to understand the phenomenon behind this process. However, the fact here is that metals are able to conduct electricity due to the presence of free electrons in them. Metallic bonding is very different from other types of matter. This state of matter has a unique build-up since the electrons are not attached to any specific atom. This way, the delocalized electrons are able to flow due to the presence of a potential difference. 

What is metallic bonding?

Metallic bonding as it is, can be a confusing concept to grasp fully. A model called the electron sea phenomena can best be used to explain this model. Metallic bonding is able to come together and form a bond due to electrostatic forces. The atoms have a positive charge while the sea (negatively charged) behaves like a bonding glue that hold all the atoms together.  Due to this bonding, metals seem to share similar properties like:
  • Electrical conductivity
  • thermal conductivity
  • Shininess
  • Strength
  • High melting point (this is particularly true with transition metals)
  • Ductility
  • And malleability
Metallic bonding is a distinctive type of bonding. This can be explained with the use of the band gap theory. Band gap: With band diagrams, we are able to properly understand insulators, semiconductors, and conductors. The band gap is used to show the different states of energy of an electron. This theory also explains the energy states that make electrons change their locations. The valence band is the state of each metallic atom merging to form a band. The conduction band lies beyond the valence band. This is the collection of different states of energy whereby the electrons have sufficient energy to move. The band gap is defined as the distance between the conduction bands and the valence bands.  Metals do not have any band gap. This means that there is an overlap between the valence band and the conduction band. In the case of semiconductors, there is usually a little band gap. If the electrons do not posses enough energy, there is no conduction at all. Insulators have very large band gaps. This means that any material that is classified as an insulator has a very large band gap.  Metals and their Electrical Properties: The primary electrical parameter is electrical conductivity. By conductivity, we are able to determine the quantity of electrical current that can pass through a material. This is also known as “specific conductance.” This is the inverse function of resistivity.  Electrical Conductivity: Conductivity is opposed to resistance or resistivity. The resistivity of metal would easily increase with temperature. This means that conductivity decreases with an increase in temperature. A linear decrease in the conductivity of metal happens with increased temperature due to a phenomenon called phonon-electron interactions. The temperature usually increases the vibration of atoms, which in turn impedes any passing electrons. This then limits the mobility of the electrons. Also, metals tend to act as superconductors when this vibration stops.

How Can You Change the Electrical Conductivity of a Metal

When it comes to modifying the electrical conductivity of metals, this can be done in various ways. They are: Shape: Shape may not change the intrinsic resistivity of material but however, but it affects the material’s extrinsic resistance.  Temperature: Temperature as discussed earlier is used to modify the resistivity of metals. This is possible because an increase in temperature tends to increase the vibration of the atoms, which leads to a decreased conductivity.  Impurity Atoms: Impure atoms affect conductivity because they are known to reduce conductivity since they work to decrease the mobility of the electron. Grain Boundaries: Changing grain boundaries is the fourth method that can be used to con troll the conductivity of a substance.

Why is Water able to Conduct Electricity?

Water and metal are known conductors of electricity. However, the processes are quite different. A metal will conduct electricity through the movement of free electrons, water uses the movement of charged ions to conduct electricity. In this case, an ion represents a net negative or positive charge. When it comes to water being a conductor, it has to have enough dissolved salt. Sea water is a better conductor in comparison to pure water. This is because sea water tends to contain enough dissolved salt.

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