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Science Fair Project on Conductive Metals

Q. I'm looking to find out what types of metals are conductive. I would also like to know were I could find these metals, if possible hopefully near my location of home in Manteca.


Arron Muhlebach
- Manteca, California, U.S.A

"Electricity and Electronics"
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A. Everything is conductive. Metals are very conductive compared to non metals. What's important is how much resistance to electrical flow a conductor produces. Sometimes this resistance is wanted and sometimes it's not. Gold, silver, copper and aluminum are considered good conductors, pretty much in that order although they're so close as not to matter. Steel has a relatively high resistance.

You would need a long small wire to show the resistance (conductivity) of the various metals. You might be able to use a spool of steel tie wire, it might have a non conductive coating on it. Any spool of copper wire as long as the diameter and length are the same. A hardware store should have what you need. If your not using a meter then a battery and light bulb should show how the length of wire causes the bulb to get dimmer. If you just put a short piece of metal in the circuit the bulb will always light showing all the (safe to handle) metals are conductive.

As the voltage goes up the ability to insulate goes down (the ability to conduct goes up). Eventually the majority of the conduction is in the magnetic field generated by the flow of electricity and very little in the metal or conductor. A lightning storm demonstrates how anything is conductive if you pump enough energy through it.

David Domm
- Rochester, New York

Is copper the best metal conductor?

Q. I'm having trouble forming a hypothesis for this project ( I'm a 10th grader who needs help. Thank you.

David C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Hollywood, Florida , USA
October 12, 2016

Hi David. A hypothesis is simply the thing that you wish to prove or disprove (although the words 'prove' and 'disprove' are a little bit strong for a one-time high school science project, so maybe we should say 'demonstrate').

If you believe that copper is the best metal conductor, your hypothesis could be "Copper is the best metal conductor". However, it is best to use extremely clear words: for example, suppliers of aluminum cable will surely say that it, rather than copper, is "best" because it is the lightest and most economical conductor even though it's conductivity is only about half that of copper. So "Copper is the highest conductivity metal" would be a clearer hypothesis. But, unless you are going to test every metal, you're still offering a hypothesis you won't be able to demonstrate. So it would be better to say "Copper has greater conductivity than x or y or z", where x, y, and z might be steel, aluminum, and zinc (or whatever you can test). Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
October 2016

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