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Worst Conductor Metal

  1. Aug 28, 2009 #1
    Does anybody happen to know what readily-available metal is the worst electrical conductor?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2009 #2


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    By metal, do you mean an element (e.g. Tungsten) or does that also include alloys?
  4. Aug 28, 2009 #3
    Oh alloys count. For example if steel was it, then I would accept that.
  5. Aug 28, 2009 #4
  6. Aug 28, 2009 #5
    Er, I was actually hoping for a more readily-available suggestion.
  7. Aug 28, 2009 #6


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    I'm sure that in 1985 plutonium is available at every corner drug store, but in 1955 it's a little hard to come by.

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  8. Aug 28, 2009 #7
    Haha, excellent reference. :P I can't believe I forgot that!
  9. Aug 28, 2009 #8


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    Yeah but seriously you really are not going to find a common elemental metal that is a bad conductor. Look at the list, I think the best you could do is titanium and that is only around 100 times less conductive than copper. I'm not aware of any really non-conductive metal alloys either but that's just ignorance. What about forming an oxide layer on the surface of the metal? For example, aluminum oxide is resistive compared to alumin(i)um. According to a random website I found, so you know it must be right (take that CRC), aluminum has a resistivity of 0.00000270 ohm-cm, alumina has a resistivity of 2.5e6 ohm-cm.

    Of course the trick would be to form the layer of alumina on the aluminum. Sure, time will do this naturally but who has the patience? You could speed up the process by grinding up the aluminum with iron oxide shavings and then providing the appropriate starting energy by a lit strip of magnesium. Now the gross expulsion of energy in the process is usually undesirable (and unconfinable...) though...
  10. Aug 28, 2009 #9
    Or I could just stick with plastic. This is good information though.
  11. Aug 29, 2009 #10


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    Plastic is not a "conductor metal".

  12. Aug 29, 2009 #11


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    Nitpicker :devil:
  13. Aug 29, 2009 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    Mercury is quite a bad conductor, as is lead. Whether these fall into the category of "readily available" or not is up to you.
  14. Aug 29, 2009 #13
    Nichrome, 65 to 88 the resistivity of Cu.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2009
  15. Aug 29, 2009 #14


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    Oh snap! Awesome reference! Who would have thunk conditions would conflagrate just so to make it relevant!
  16. Aug 29, 2009 #15
    Thank you, Zapper, for reminding me that plastic is not a metal. I'm quite aware of that. :|
  17. Aug 29, 2009 #16
    How do you define readily available?
  18. Aug 29, 2009 #17
    Able to buy it.
  19. Aug 29, 2009 #18


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    But then the question is meaningless. The definition of a metal is a material that has free electrons; i.e. there are no metals or metallic alloys that are VERY bad conductors.
    (not counting "exotic" materials such as Mott insulators and superinsulators; which are not really metallic anyway).

    If you need a bad conductor (i.e. an insulator) you should just use an insulator of some sort.
    Note also that most "metallic" properties (i.e good thermal conductors; the fact that metals are generally "shiny" etc) are only there because of the free electrons; meaning there is e.g. no such thing as a metal that is a good electric conductor but a bad thermal conductor (the exception being superconductors; but they are -again- not really metals).
  20. Aug 29, 2009 #19
    Er, okay then. I was just looking for something hard like metal that didn't conduct very well.
  21. Aug 29, 2009 #20
    Are you just looking for something to be used as a heating element? Then definitely just go with nichrome wire. Mainly nickel but with a large amount of chromium (15ish%). It's what i've used in the past to heat things up, but you need a pretty good power supply that can put out quite a bit of current depending on what you want to do.

    Just remember the magic rule...

    Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Power = I Squared R!
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