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Conductor vs. Insulator: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Published on February 12, 2024
A conductor allows electrical or thermal energy to flow through it easily, while an insulator resists this flow.
Conductor vs. Insulator

Key Differences

A conductor is a material that permits the flow of electric charges in one or more directions. For example, metals like copper and aluminum are good conductors of electricity, which is why they are commonly used in electrical wiring. An insulator, on the other hand, is a material that resists the flow of electric charge. Materials like rubber, glass, and plastic are good insulators, often used to coat or encase electrical wires to prevent accidental shock.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Feb 12, 2024
In terms of heat transfer, conductors are materials that allow heat to pass through them easily. Metals, again, are good thermal conductors, which is why cooking utensils are often made from metal. Insulators are materials that are poor conductors of heat. They are used to keep heat in or out, like in the case of thermal insulation in buildings.
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Shumaila Saeed
Feb 12, 2024
In electrical circuits, a conductor is used to make connections and allow the flow of current. Its ability to conduct electricity efficiently makes it integral to the functioning of electronic devices. Insulators are used to prevent the undesired flow of current and to protect against electrical hazards. They are essential for safety in electrical systems, providing a barrier between electrical conductors and users.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Feb 12, 2024
Conductors and insulators can be found in all physical states: solid, liquid, and gas. However, the most effective conductors are usually metals (solid), while insulators are often found in a variety of forms like rubber (solid), oil (liquid), and air (gas). Each material's atomic structure determines its ability to conduct or insulate.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Feb 12, 2024
Both conductors and insulators play crucial roles in modern technology. Conductors are key in the transmission and distribution of electrical power, while insulators are vital in ensuring the safe use of that power. The proper selection and application of these materials are fundamental to the functioning of electrical devices and systems.
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Feb 12, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Electric Charge Flow

Allows flow
Resists flow
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Feb 12, 2024

Common Materials

Metals like copper, aluminum
Rubber, glass, plastic
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Feb 12, 2024

Thermal Conductivity

High
Low
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Feb 12, 2024

Use in Circuits

To make connections, allow current flow
To prevent undesired current flow, protect against hazards
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Physical States

Mostly solids (metals)
Various forms (solids, liquids, gases)
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Conductor and Insulator Definitions

Conductor

An element or compound with free-moving charged particles.
Silver is the best conductor of electricity but is too expensive for common use.
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Jan 25, 2024

Insulator

A material that resists the passage of electric current.
Plastic is used as an insulator for electrical wiring.
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Jan 25, 2024

Conductor

Anything that can transfer energy from one form to another.
Water can be a conductor of thermal energy.
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Jan 25, 2024

Insulator

A material used to reduce or prevent the transmission of sound.
Foam is an effective insulator against noise.
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Jan 25, 2024

Conductor

A material that permits the flow of electricity.
Copper wires are used as conductors in electrical cables.
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Jan 25, 2024
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Insulator

An object that does not allow the free movement of electrons.
Rubber gloves are used as insulators in electrical work.
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Jan 25, 2024

Conductor

A substance that allows heat to pass through it.
The metal pot is a good conductor of heat for cooking.
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Jan 25, 2024

Insulator

A compound that inhibits the flow of thermal energy.
Air trapped in double-glazed windows acts as an insulator.
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Jan 25, 2024

Conductor

One who is in charge of a railroad train, bus, or streetcar.
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Jan 22, 2024

Insulator

A substance that prevents the transfer of heat.
Fiberglass is commonly used as an insulator in buildings.
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Jan 25, 2024

Conductor

(Music) One who directs an orchestra or other such group.
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Jan 22, 2024

Insulator

A material that insulates, especially a nonconductor of sound, heat, or electricity.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

(Physics) A substance or medium that conducts heat, light, sound, or especially an electric charge.
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Jan 22, 2024

Insulator

A device that insulates.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

A lightning rod, as on a house or barn.
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Jan 22, 2024

Insulator

A substance that does not transmit heat (thermal insulator), sound (acoustic insulator) or electricity (electrical insulator).
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

One who conducts or leads; a guide; a director.
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Jan 22, 2024

Insulator

A non-conductive structure, coating or device that does not transmit sound, heat or electricity (see image)
To isolate electrical wires from the pylons supporting them, one often uses glass insulators.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

(music) A person who conducts an orchestra, choir or other music ensemble; a professional whose occupation is conducting.
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Jan 22, 2024

Insulator

A person who installs insulation.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

(rail transport) A person who takes tickets on public transportation and also helps passengers.
Train conductor
Tram conductor
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Jan 22, 2024

Insulator

One who, or that which, insulates.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

(physics) Something that can transmit electricity, heat, light, or sound.
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Jan 22, 2024

Insulator

A substance or object that insulates; a nonconductor; as, polyurethane foam is a popular thermal insulator.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

(mathematics) An ideal of a ring that measures how far it is from being integrally closed
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Jan 22, 2024

Insulator

A material such as glass or porcelain with negligible electrical or thermal conductivity
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

A grooved sound or staff used for directing instruments, such as lithontriptic forceps; a director.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

(architecture) A leader.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

One who, or that which, conducts; a leader; a commander; a guide; a manager; a director.
Zeal, the blind conductor of the will.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

One in charge of a public conveyance, as of a railroad train or a street car.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

The leader or director of an orchestra or chorus.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

A substance or body capable of being a medium for the transmission of certain forces, esp. heat or electricity; specifically, a lightning rod.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

A grooved sound or staff used for directing instruments, as lithontriptic forceps, etc.; a director.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

Same as Leader.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

The person who leads a musical group
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

A device designed to transmit electricity, heat, etc.
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

A substance that readily conducts e.g. electricity and heat
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

The person who collects fares on a public conveyance
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Jan 22, 2024

Conductor

A material that facilitates the transmission of sound waves.
In a stringed instrument, the strings act as conductors of vibration.
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Jan 25, 2024

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Are conductors always solid?

Conductors can be solid, liquid, or gas, but solid metals are the most effective.
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Feb 12, 2024

Is wood a conductor or an insulator?

Wood is generally an insulator.
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Feb 12, 2024

Do all metals conduct electricity?

Most metals are good conductors of electricity, but not all.
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Feb 12, 2024

Is glass a good thermal insulator?

Yes, glass is a good thermal insulator.
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Feb 12, 2024

Do insulators have free electrons?

Insulators have very few free electrons.
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Can plastic conduct electricity?

Plastic is generally an electrical insulator.
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Is air an insulator or a conductor?

Air is normally an insulator but can become a conductor under high voltage.
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Feb 12, 2024

Is aluminum foil a good conductor?

Yes, aluminum foil is a good conductor of both electricity and heat.
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Feb 12, 2024

Why are power lines made of conductive materials?

Power lines are made of conductive materials to efficiently transmit electricity.
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Feb 12, 2024

Is copper a better conductor than iron?

Yes, copper is a better conductor of electricity than iron.
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Feb 12, 2024

Can a conductor become an insulator?

Under certain conditions, such as extreme temperatures, a conductor can behave like an insulator.
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Feb 12, 2024

Can insulators conduct electricity under any condition?

High voltage or temperatures can cause some insulators to conduct electricity.
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Feb 12, 2024

Can water be a conductor?

Water, especially if impure or salty, can be a conductor.
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Feb 12, 2024

Why are metals used as conductors in wiring?

Metals are used due to their high electrical conductivity and durability.
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Feb 12, 2024

What are superconductors?

Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with no resistance under certain conditions.
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Feb 12, 2024

Why are insulators used in electrical appliances?

Insulators are used in electrical appliances for safety to prevent electrical shocks.
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Feb 12, 2024

Can a conductor be used as an insulator at low temperatures?

Some conductors can act as insulators at very low temperatures.
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Feb 12, 2024

What makes a material a good insulator?

A good insulator has a high resistance to the flow of electricity and heat.
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Feb 12, 2024

Is rubber a natural insulator?

Yes, rubber is a natural insulator for electricity.
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Feb 12, 2024

Are ceramics good insulators?

Yes, ceramics are good electrical and thermal insulators.
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Feb 12, 2024

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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