Aluminium is one of the world’s most used materials due to its versatility and varied benefits. It is lightweight, strong, enduring, and easy to recycle, making it the perfect choice for a variety of applications and industrial uses. Aside from its recyclability and durability, aluminium also has other key features, one of which is an excellent conductor of electricity. The conductivity means that aluminium has been widely used for electrical applications such as wiring and cables whilst also offering a more cost-effective solution for industry, home, manufacturing and transportation.
If you’re designing or producing a product where electrical conductivity is applicable, aluminium would be a highly suitable option. This article will give an insight into the process of electric conduction, how electricity travels through aluminium and how this metal compares to other conductors.
Is aluminium a good electrical conductor?
Aluminium ranks fourth in electrical conductivity for known metals, placed after silver and gold which are far too expensive to consider for regular applications. Due to this assumption, aluminium ranks as the second most conductive material appropriate for practical and industrial conditions, with copper sitting at the top.
One of the main advantages of aluminium as an electrical conductor is its lower density making it a much lighter base. This characteristic is particularly beneficial in industries where weight reduction is important, such as aerospace. It does, however, come with some limitations such as having higher resistance which means it can generate more heat when conducting the same amount of electrical current.
Do aluminium finishings impact electrical conductivity?
In short, the finishing or surface applications of aluminium can have an impact on its electrical conductivity. Typically, raw or untouched aluminium has greater electrical conductivity compared to aluminium with particular types of finishes.
For example, anodizing is a common surface treatment used on aluminium, creating a thicker and more durable oxide layer. Although anodizing provides enhanced corrosion resistance and aesthetic appearance, it can also increase the electrical resistance of the surface layer. Similarly, other coatings that present non-conductive materials or insulating layers will affect electrical conductivity e.g. paint, enamel, or polymer-based materials.
How does aluminium conduct electricity?
During the process of electrical conductivity, electrons president movement within the aluminium atomic structure.
In simple terms, aluminium is a metal which means its atoms own loosely bound electrons in the farthest energy level. These electrons are not tightly bound to individual atoms but are shared among a large number of atoms within a metallic lattice structure. When an electric volt is exposed across an aluminium conductor, such as a wire, the free electrons undergo an electric field causing the electrons to move and produce a flow of electrical current.
The existence of these active electrons and their capacity to move throughout the lattice is what allows aluminium to conduct electricity. It’s also important to mention that the general charge of the aluminium conductor stays neutral during the flow of current.
Why is conductivity important in aluminium?
With aluminium being such a widely used material within many different environments and industries, the level of conductivity is crucial for production, safety and daily usage.
Here are just a few of the situations in which the conductivity of aluminium is important.
- Electrical power transmission and reducing the loss of electricity
- Electrical wiring
- Industrial applications
- Electronics and electrical devices
- Heat dissipation such as cooling systems and limiting overheating
- Cost and weight: important from a business and finance perspective
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So if you’re in search of a material that will stand the test of time, aluminium is that material.
If you’re ready to make your purchase, you can use our build-a-quote service to place your order, Or, if you’d like to speak to our team about your project please give us a call on 01623 721 172.