What are Electrical Insulators?

When designing, manufacturing, and operating electrical systems and electronics, controlling electricity and mitigating its effects is just as important as supplying it. Electric insulator parts are extremely beneficial for preventing unwanted voltage from spreading throughout a system, as misdirected voltage can cause short circuits, ground faults, or result in other unwanted system issues and damage. In this blog, we will discuss the differences between insulators and conductors, and why insulators are important to electronic systems.

To understand what insulation is, it is beneficial to first understand conductivity. In 1897, scientists discovered the electron of the atom, greatly increasing our knowledge on the fundamentals of electricity. With their discovery, scientists found that electrons are negatively charged particles that have the capability to transfer electricity through materials. These electrons move around the nucleus of the atom, and conductivity is based on how capable those electrons are to detach from atoms and move freely. As a result, electrical flow can be conducted through objects if the electrons of the said material are able to be excited and gain energy. Common electrical conductor parts and materials include water, silver, copper, steel, and gold.

Adversely, insulative materials are those in which electrons are bound tightly to the nucleus and thus feature resistance to conductivity. Insulators that are typically used within systems and applications include rubber, dry wood, glass, oil, and diamond. Insulation is utilized to control the flow and conductivity of electricity, both to protect the system they serve and the components and systems around them. Conductors can be separated so that currents are not conducted through themselves, or cables can be enclosed in insulated materials to keep the electricity from flowing into the ground or closeby living beings.

Battery parts and fuel cell parts benefit from the conductive and insulative properties of their materials for their functionality. For battery parts, the negatively charged electrons are attracted to anything that is positively charged, allowing them to flow into and power whatever is attached to the negative side. As they cannot flow straight to the positive side of the battery, a circuit must be made for negatively charged electrons to flow around towards the positive side. When something like a lightbulb is also attached to this circuit, the electrons can provide the lightbulb power on their way to the positive side of the battery. This basic flow of electrons also explains the basic functions and flow of a fuel cell as well, though fuel cells parts require a fuel source and do not need to be recharged.


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