In this article, we will explain what is an electrical insulator, what are their uses in the industry, and various examples. We will also discuss the subject of conductive and semi-conductive materials.
What is an electrical insulator?
An electrical insulator is a material that is unable to transmit electricity or anything close to it. Any material capable of preventing or reducing the passage of electrical current can be an insulator. Electrical insulators are indispensable in the industry and in the management of currents, because they are used to avoid short-circuits and reduce the danger of transmission, preventing the free flow of electrical charges. An electrical insulator is a material with low or no electrical conductivity. This means that the electrical charges in their atoms (electrons) cannot move freely, so these materials exert some resistance to the passage of current through them. An insulator is the exact opposite of a conductive material.
What are the functions of electrical insulators?
The insulating materials are useful in the electrical industry for different aspects :
- Covering wiring. Conductive metal wires are wrapped in insulating material to prevent them from touching and disrupting the circuit while protecting people from direct contact with electrical cables.
- Convey the cargo to its desired destination. Insulators prevent the dispersion of electrical charges throughout the traffic. For example, in electrical towers and supports.
- Prepare protective materials for users and operators in the electrical industry. These materials allow isolating the bodies of the users from possible contact with the current. There are different insulating materials. Among the best known, we can mention glass, paper, Teflon, carpentry, ceramic, rubber, plastics, and organic polymers, and silicone. Silicone is indeed an excellent insulator and is widely used in various industries. If you need silicone for various uses, don’t hesitate to ask Elkem, a professional in the field. Click here for more information.
What are the different conductive and semi-conductive materials?
Contrary to insulators, conductive materials are the most suitable for the transmission of electrical charges, due to the chemical properties of their atoms. A conductor will generally allow the rapid propagation of electrical energy through its atoms, by mobilizing its electrons and without changing its chemical nature. Examples of conductive materials are most metals or water. Semiconductors, on the other hand, are materials capable of conducting or resisting electricity, depending on the physical conditions in which they are found (usually temperature, pressure, incident radiation, and/or the nature of the electric or magnetic field to which they are subjected).these materials can be very diverse and different from each other, but they act to varying degrees as conductors and insulators at the same time. Examples of semiconductor materials are silicon (Si), germanium (Ge), sulfur (S), cadmium (Cd), and some other elements of the periodic table.
However, there are no absolute or perfect insulators that can completely block current. Some are more efficient than others, but there is always a small margin of transmission, so if the voltage of the electric current is increased sufficiently, any insulating material will become conductive and allow the flow of electricity. The limit of this resistance of insulators is called the breakdown voltage.