Conductors and Insulators

Conductors are made of materials that electricity can flow through easily. These materials are made up of atoms whose electrons can move away freely.

Some examples of conductors are:

  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Platinum
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Water
  • People and Animals
  • Trees

Insulators are materials opposite of conductors. The atoms are not easily freed, and are stable, preventing or blocking the flow of electricity. Electricity will always take the shortest path to the ground.

Some examples of insulators are:

  • Glass
  • Porcelain
  • Plastic
  • Rubber

Your body is 60 percent water!

…which makes you a good conductor of electricity. If a power line falls on a tree and you touch the tree, you then become the path or conductor to the ground and could get electrocuted.

The rubber or plastic on an electrical cord provides an insulator for the wires. By covering the wires, electricity cannot go through the rubber and is forced to follow the easier path through the aluminum or copper wires.

Aluminum Wires

Aluminum wire is used as electrical conductors on electric utility transmission and distribution systems. The overhead wires spanning utility poles are made of aluminum and do not have insulation around them.

Copper Wires

Copper wire is commonly used on everyday items, like extension cords and your home’s electrical wiring. While copper generally costs more than aluminum, it is a better conductor, so smaller wire can be used. This type of wire in your home does have insulation around it.

NEVER TOUCH ANY EXPOSED WIRES! Tell an adult if you see an exposed wire or sparks from any electrical object.