One of the uses of chemicals is to conduct electricity. What is the meaning of conduct electricity? It means the ability to allow the flow of charge. Things with this ability are called electrical conductors. Some examples of good electrical conductors are copper and silver.
Because of this characteristic, both materials are very useful in the making of some electrical applications. But in this process, the manufacturer only uses the main grade. What distinguishes the main grade from the other is its annealed copper.
This is an international standard of electrical conductors comparison. This standard will determine the main grade of copper which later used for building wire, cables, busbars, as well as motor windings.
Silver is a better electrical conductor than copper but also more expensive. Because of the higher cost of this material, silver is only used in specialized equipment, such as satellites.
Silver has a famous history because it was a part of the making of the calutron magnets used in the period of World War II. There was a copper shortage at that time that made silver had to substitute the function of copper.
Now we must be wondering, what makes a chemical an electrical conductor? Let’s find it out!
What Makes A Chemical An Electrical Conductor
From the examples above, it is clear that not all chemicals can be electrical conductors and one chemical can be a better electrical conductor than the other. So first we must learn what makes a chemical an electrical conductor.
Chemicals that can conduct electricity has both a positively (cation) and negatively (anion) charged atom. When these chemicals are in their solid form, they cannot conduct electricity. But once they are dissolved in water, the atoms dissociate.
This is the stage on which the electricity conduct happens. In the condition of high temperature, these chemicals will become liquids. In this form, both the cations and anions in the chemicals start to flow and can conduct electricity in the nonexistence of water.
Like the example of copper and silver, it shows that one chemical can be better or stronger than the other. So what is the difference between strong and weak conductor?
Strong and Weak Conductivity
Chemicals that have strong conductivity are separated completely into molecules or ions when dissolved in water. The higher the concentration of molecules or ions, the stronger the conductivity.
Examples of chemicals with strong conductivity are sodium chloride (table salt), ammonium sulfate, and calcium chloride. There are also some liquids that have strong conductivity. They are mercury and a saturated salt-water solution.
Weak conductors are the opposite of strong conductors. Weak conductors are only partly separated when dissolved in water. Acetic acid, one of the contents of vinegar, is one of the examples of weak conductors. Only a little part of it dissociates in water.
Gases are also weak conductors. The atoms in gases are too far apart to exchange electrons. But temperature affects the electrical conductivity of gases. Once the temperature is higher, gases tend to become ionized which make them good conductors.
Related: The uses of acetic acid
Sulfuric Acid Conducts Electricity Better Than Citric
Now we have learned about strong and weak conductors and the examples. Another example that we will learn is sulfuric acid and citric. Sulfuric acid is very popular for its high electrical conductivity.
It conducts electricity very well because of the dissociation that happens through its protonation. This process is called an autoprotolysis. Protonation is a process in which a proton is added to an atom, molecule or ion, while autoprotolysis is a process of proton transfer.
When sulfuric acid dissolves in water, it ionizes into hydrogen ions and sulfate ions. As a stronger acid, sulfuric acid separated completely into ions when it dissolved in water. It also produces many ions, the one responsible for carrying charges and conducting electricity.
On another hand, citric is the example of a weak acid. It only produces a few ions.
With very few ions, citric cannot carry charges as much as sulfuric acid hence it cannot conduct electricity as good as sulfuric acid. Based on this explanation, it is clear that sulfuric acid is a better electricity conductor than citric.