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Electrical Conductivity - Elements and other Materials

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  • Conductors are materials with loosely attached valence electrons - electrons can drift freely between the atoms
  • Insulators have structures where the electrons are bound to the atoms by ionic or covalent bonds - almost no current can flow
  • Semiconductors are insulating materials where the bonds can be broken with applied voltage - electrons can be released and moved from one vacated valence site to another.

Electrical Conductivity

Electrical conductivity or specific conductivity is the measure of a material's ability to conduct electric current. Conductivity is the reciprocal (inverse) of electrical resistivity .

Electrical conductivity is defined as the ratio of the current density to the electric field strength and can be expressed as

σ = J / E                          (1)

where

σ = electrical conductivity (1/ohms m, 1/ Ω m, siemens/m, S/m, mho/m)

J = current density (amps/m2)

E = electric field strength (volts/m)

One siemens - S - is equal to the reciprocal of one ohm and is also referred to as one mho.

Electrical Conductivity of some Common Materials

Electrical Conductivity - Elements and other Materials
ProductElectrical Conductivity
- σ -
(1/Ω m, S/m, mho/m)
Aluminum 37.7 10 6
Beryllium 31.3 10 6
Cadmium 13.8 10 6
Calcium 29.8 10 6
Chromium 7.74 10 6
Cobalt 17.2 10 6
Copper 59.6 10 6
Copper - annealed 58.0 10 6
Gallium 6.78 10 6
Gold 45.2 10 6
Iridium 19.7 10 6
Iron 9.93 10 6
Indium 11.6 10 6
Lithium 10.8 10 6
Magnesium 22.6 10 6
Molybdenum 18.7 10 6
Nickel 14.3 10 6
Niobium 6.93 10 6
Osmium 10.9 10 6
Palladium 9.5 10 6
Platinum 9.66 10 6
Potassium 13.9 10 6
Rhenium 5.42 10 6
Rhodium 21.1 10 6
Rubidium 7.79 10 6
Ruthenium 13.7 10 6
Silver 63 10 6
Sodium 21 10 6
Strontium 7.62 10 6
Tantalum 7.61 10 6
Technetium 6.7 10 6
Thallium 6.17 10 6
Thorium 6.53 10 6
Tin 9.17 10 6
Tungsten 18.9 10 6
Zinc 16.6 10 6
Seawater 4.5  - 5.5
Water - Drinking 0.0005 - 0.05
Water - Deionized 5.5 10-6
  • 1 S/m = 10 4 μS/cm = mho/m
  • 1 S/cm = 10 -2 S/m
  • 1 1/Ω m = S/m = 3.28 1/Ω ft = 3.28 S/ft

Electrical Conductivity of Elements relative to Silver

Electrical Conductivity of Elements relative to Silver
ElementElectrical Conductivity relative to Silver
Silver 100.0
Copper 94.6
Gold 71.7
Aluminum 59.8
Beryllium 49.7
Calcium 47.3
Magnesium 35.9
Rhodium 33.5
Sodium 33.0
Barium 30.6
Tungsten 30.0
Molybdenum 29.7
Cobalt 27.3
Zinc 26.3
Nickel 22.6
Cadmium 21.9
Ruthenium 21.7
Cesium 20.0
Indium 18.4
Osmium 17.3
Lithium 17.1
Uranium 16.5
Manganese 15.8
Iron 15.8
Platinum 15.3
Palladium 15.1
Tin 14.6
Titanium 13.7
Iridium 13.5
Rubidium 12.4
Chromium 12.3
Tantalum 12.1
Steel 12.0
Thallium 9.8
Lead 8.4
Columbium 5.1
Vanadium 5.0
Arsenic 4.9
Antimony 3.6
Mercury 1.8
Bismuth 1.4
Tellurium 0.0

Electrical Conductivity of Highly Purified Water

Electrical Resistivity

Conductivity is the reciprocal (inverse) of electrical resistivity. Electrical resistivity can be expressed as

ρ = 1 / σ (2)

where

ρ = electrical resistivity (ohm m2/m, ohm m)

Resistance of a Conductor

The resistance for a conductor can be expressed as

R = ρ l / A                      (3)

where

R = resistance (ohms, Ω)

l = length of conductor (m)

A = cross sectional area of conductor (m2)

Example - Resistance of a Wire

The resistance of 1000 m copper wire gauge #10 with cross sectional area 5.26 mm2 can be calculated as

R = (1.724 x 10 -8 ohm m2/m) (1000 m) / (( 5.26 mm2) (10-6 m2/mm2))

= 3.2 ohm

Resistivity and Conductivity Conversion

Resistivity and Conductivity Conversion
Grains/gal
as CaCO 3
ppm
as CaCO 3
ppm
NaCl
Conductivity
μmho/cm
Resistivity
MΩ/cm
99.3 1700 2000 3860 0.00026
74.5 1275 1500 2930 0.00034
49.6 850 1000 1990 0.00050
24.8 425 500 1020 0.00099
9.93 170 200 415 0.0024
7.45 127 150 315 0.0032
4.96 85.0 100 210 0.0048
2.48 42.5 50 105 0.0095
0.992 17.0 20 42.7 0.023
0.742 12.7 15 32.1 0.031
0.496 8.50 10 21.4 0.047
0.248 4.25 5.0 10.8 0.093
0.099 1.70 2.0 4.35 0.23
0.074 1.27 1.5 3.28 0.30
0.048 0.85 1.00 2.21 0.45
0.025 0.42 0.50 1.13 0.88
0.0099 0.17 0.20 0.49 2.05
0.0076 0.13 0.15 0.38 2.65
0.0050 0.085 0.10 0.27 3.70
0.0025 0.042 0.05 0.16 6.15
0.00099 0.017 0.02 0.098 10.2
0.00070 0.012 0.015 0.087 11.5
0.00047 0.008 0.010 0.076 13.1
0.00023 0.004 0.005 0.066 15.2
0.00012 0.002 0.002 0.059 16.9
  • grains/gal = 17.1 ppm CaCO 3

Electrical Conductivity of Aqueous Solutions

Electrical conductivity of aqueous solutions like

  • NaOH 4 - Caustic soda
  • NH 4 Cl - Ammonium chloride, Sal ammoniac
  • NaCl2- Common salt
  • NaNO 3 - Sodium nitrate, Chilean saltpetre
  • CaCl2- Calcium chloride
  • ZnCl2- Zinc chloride
  • NaHCO 3 - Sodium bicarconate, baking soda
  • Na2CO 3 - Sodium carbonate, soda ash
  • CuSO 4 - Copper sulfate, blue vitriol

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