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The Path of Resistance
By Trista L. Pollard
1 If we did not have electrical energy, our lives would be very dark. For instance, when we turn on a light switch at home, we automatically expect our light to shine brightly. Occasionally, a light bulb will burn out, and we will be left in darkness. However, did you know that there are other situations where the flow of electrical energy can be interrupted as it travels from the power source to the connected device or object? Did you also know that almost any material can conduct electricity under the right conditions?
2 A material's conductivity is based on how easily electrical energy can pass through it. Metals, such as copper, are the best conductors of electricity. Electrical conductors are a bit like train conductors. A train conductor helps to ease the traffic flow of passengers as they board the train. Objects, such as metal, are conductors of electrical energy because they allow the electricity to flow easily through them. Most electrical wiring is made of copper since it is easy to bend and copper is inexpensive to mine and manufacture into wire.
3 If you have taken a peek inside a device that runs on electricity recently, you may have thought that the wires were made entirely of rubber. However, copper or metal wires need insulation to maintain the strength of the electrical energy as it travels through the wire. Insulators like rubber are poor conductors of electricity because the electrical energy cannot easily flow through these materials. Glass, plastic, cloth, and many other non-metallic materials are also poor conductors of electricity. Electrical wires may be covered in plastic and cloth in addition to rubber. Electricians even wear rubber gloves when they are working with electrical wires.
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