Electrical insulator theory

Electrical insulator theory: Electrical insulation is the absence of electrical conduction. Electronic band theory says that a charge flows if states are available into which electrons can be excited.

Electrical insulator

Electrical insulator theory 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. Most insulators have a large band gap. This occurs because the "valence" band containing the highest energy electrons is full, and a large energy gap separates this band from the next band above it.

There is always some voltage (called the breakdown voltage) that gives electrons enough energy to be excited into this band. Once this voltage is exceeded the material ceases being an insulator, and charge begins to pass through it. However, it is usually accompanied by physical or chemical changes that permanently degrade the material's insulating properties.

Materials that lack electron conduction are insulators if they lack other mobile charges as well. For example, if a liquid or gas contains ions, then the ions can be made to flow as an electric current, and the material is a conductor. Electrolytes and plasmas contain ions and act as conductors whether or not electron flow is involved.

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