Electrical conduction by metals allows us to power our homes and offices, gives life to our electronic gadgetry and is critical to the engines that power modern forms of transport.
So why are certain metals so effective at conducting electricity, while others aren't?
All metal elements have valence electrons - free electrons that move through the lattice that gives a metal its physical shape. These electrons carry an electric charge and transmit this charge when stimulated by an electric field.
The valence electrons in metals like silver and copper are very efficient at transmitting an electric charge, which is why 65 percent of all copper is used in electrical applications. By contrast, semiconductor metals - or metalloids - are very inefficient carriers of electricity and must be 'doped' with other elements to form diodes and other components vital to solid-state electronics.
Read more about electrical conductivity in metals.
Image: Copper wires are the most common carrier of electricity in homes and office buildings. Photo © Adam Crowley.