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Which is the best conductor? Silver or gold? Why?

  1. Mar 3, 2015 #1
    According to electrochemical series ,gold is the last element thus it is depicted that it is the best electrical conductor.(most of the teachers say that) But according to the internet the best electrical conductor is silver , following copper and gold. Which one is true and why ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2015 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Hi y w. http://img96.imageshack.us/img96/5725/red5e5etimes5e5e45e5e25.gif [Broken]

    That is a good question. Tables show Ag and Cu exceeding Au in both electrical and thermal conductivities.

    I'm wondering whether gold enjoys a better reputation because Ag and Cu will both carry surface corrosion products after prolonged exposure to the atmosphere, and this can degrade their performance in lots of practical applications, whereas Au retains its clean shiny surface because it is significantly more unreactive. This means that gold may be the better choice in the long run, depending on the application.

    You would not be the first to ask this question, and I'm sure that there is a good answer somewhere.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Mar 3, 2015 #3


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    Gold Member

    Can you get them to put that in writing? That strikes me as very wrong.

    That sounds more like chemistry, than something to do with conductivity.

    According to this website:

    Conductivity Of Metals Sorted By Resistivity Conductivity {I've abbreviated the list, btw}
    Code (Text):
    6.287E+07     Silver, Pure
    5.800E+07     Copper, Pure
    4.060E+07     Gold, Pure
    3.538E+07     Aluminum, Pure
    The internet is correct.

    As to why one metal is a better conductor than another, probably has to do with the "Conduction band" characteristics of the atoms, of which, I have no knowledge.
  5. Mar 3, 2015 #4
    Thanks a lot.
  6. Mar 3, 2015 #5


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    This is why sometimes, electrical plugs or contacts will be gold plated. It's pretty much never worth the money to make a conductor entirely out of gold, but a gold plated connector can be nice for the corrosion-resistant properties.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  7. Mar 4, 2015 #6


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    Gold Member

    Gold is superior in applications where reactivity is a concern. Silver, and copper to a lesser extent, are environmentally sensitive.
  8. Jan 15, 2016 #7
    Silver has the least resistance and is therefore the most conductive, but it will tarnish. Tarnish creates surface resistance which is particularly problematic in applications where "skin effect" is important such as with higher frequencies. Gold is also very conductive but more importantly, it is the least reactive element meaning it will remain shiny and therefore more conductive for the longest amount of time.
  9. Aug 13, 2016 #8
    Two words are used for conducting properties of a method. one is "best" conducting material and other is "highest" conducting material. First is used in the practical environment and other is used in ideal environment. Gold has superior stability in terms of electrical or thermal conduction at low to high temperature range and harsh environmental conditions. Silver losses its characteristics when temperature varies from 20 to 100 degree centigrade. This is why, gold is best conducting material in practical and silver is highest conducting material at ideal.
  10. Aug 17, 2016 #9


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    Plasma is the best.:-p
  11. Aug 18, 2016 #10
    best 'material' ??
    Do you have any figures for conductivity/resistivity of 'plasma'
  12. Aug 19, 2016 #11


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    Plasma conductivity depends on various parameters. This model will do for now: http://silas.psfc.mit.edu/introplasma/chap3.html#tth_sEc3.5.2
    ##\eta=5.2\times 10^{-5} \frac{\ln \Lambda}{(T_e/eV)^{3/2}}## Ωm
    For example, let ##Z=1##, ##\ln \Lambda = 16##, ##kT = 1000 eV## (about 11.6 million kelvin)
    I got a resistivity of 2.6E-8 ohm-m. Which happens to be actually higher than silver (1.59E-8 ohm-m).
    But if we up the temperature to 10000eV, we get about 8.32E-10 ohm-m, which is quite a bit lower.

    Oops, superconductors beat plasmas pretty handily.
  13. Jan 26, 2018 #12
    Interesting conversation!

    I always believed that Au made the best connector since it inert and is very conductive, but not so in all cases. High contact pressure sealed connectors using Ag are excellent, but not necessarily practical.

    An item I did not see here is importance of the malleability and hardness of Au. This detail makes it usable where most other conductors just will not work.

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