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To Flow Or Not To Flow?
By Trista L. Pollard
1 Every time we turn on a switch in our houses, we expect our lights to shine, our toaster ovens to toast our bagels, or our radios to play music. However, did you know that there are certain conditions that can interrupt the flow of electricity? Did you also know that certain materials allow electricity to flow through them more easily than other materials?
2 The ability of electrical energy to flow through materials is called conduction. Materials that allow electricity to easily flow are called conductors. Think of a conductor on a train. He or she helps to direct passengers to their seats to help ease the traffic flow on the train. Well, some materials, called conductors, work in the same way. Electricity passes through them very easily. Electrical wires are made of metal because metal is one of the best conductors. One type of metal, copper, is most often used for electrical wires since it is very easy to bend and is inexpensive to mine and to produce wire from it.
3 Materials that do not allow electricity to pass easily through them are called insulators. Rubber, glass, plastic, and cloth are poor conductors of electricity. This is why electrical wires are covered in rubber, plastic, or cloth. Electricians even wear rubber gloves when they are working with electrical wires. This does not mean that electricity cannot pass through insulators or any other material. If you give any object enough voltage (the force or push behind the flow of electricity), then that object will conduct electricity. For example, air is a very good insulator. However, we have all seen electricity travel through air during a lightning strike or felt the shock of static electricity that has jumped through the air from an object to an outstretched arm or finger. Some insulators can become conductors when they are wet. You should turn off appliances when your hands are dry because human skin is a better conductor when wet.
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