Insulator (electrical)

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This article refers to electrical insulation. For insulation of heat, see Thermal insulation

An insulator, also called a dielectric, is a material that resists the flow of electric charge. In insulating materials valence electrons are tightly bonded to their atoms. These materials are used in electrical equipment as insulators or insulation. Their function is to support or separate electrical conductors without allowing current through themselves. The term also refers to insulating supports that attach electric power transmission wires to utility poles or pylons.

Some materials such as glass, paper or Teflon are very good electrical insulators. Even though they may have lower bulk resistivity, a much larger class of materials are still "good enough" to insulate electrical wiring and cables. Examples include rubber-like polymers and most plastics. Such materials can serve as practical and safe insulators for low to moderate voltages (hundreds, or even thousands, of volts).

Contents

Physics of conduction in solids

Electrical insulation is the absence of electrical conduction. Electronic band theory (a branch of physics) says that a charge will flow if states are available into which electrons can be excited. This allows electrons to gain energy and thereby move through a conductor such as a metal. If no such states are available, the material is an insulator.

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