Conductors and Insulators

Conductors are materials through which electricity can flow easily. These materials are made up of atoms where electrons can move away or ‘jump'. Some examples of conductors are: copper, aluminium, platinum, gold, silver, water, people, animals and trees.

Insulators are materials that are opposite to conductors. The electrons are not easily freed and are stable, preventing or blocking the flow of electricity.

Some examples of insulators are: glass, porcelain, plastic and rubber.

Your body is a conductor!

Electricity will always take the shortest and easiest path to the ground. Because our bodies are made up mostly of water, we are good conductors of electricity. If a power line has fallen on a tree and you touch the tree, you become the path or conductor to the ground and could suffer from an electric shock. Beware! If electricity travels through you, it is likely that you will be seriously hurt or even killed.

Insulators help keep electricity from leaving the power lines. You may notice that there are glass, plastic or ceramic insulators high up on power poles which also help prevent the electricity from travelling down poles to the ground.

The rubber or plastic on the outside of an electrical appliance cord provides an insulator for the wires. When the wires are covered, the electricity cannot travel through the rubber and is forced to follow the path along the aluminium or copper wires. If this insulation is broken or wears off, electricity can come through and shock you.

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