Not exactly. The scientist’s definition of the word “conductor” is different than the one above, and the one above has problems. For example, a vacuum offers no barrier to flows of electric charges, yet vacuum is an insulator. Vacuum is NOTHING, so how can it act as a barrier to electric current? Also, there is a similar problem with air: electric charges in the air can easily move along, yet air is an insulator. Or look at salt water versus oil. Oil is an insulator, while salt water is a conductor, yet neither liquid is able to halt the flow of any charges which are placed into it. How can we straighten out this paradox? Easy: use the proper definition of “conductor.” BAD:
Conductor – a material which allows charges to pass through itself BETTER:
Conductor – a material which contains movable electric charges If we place a Potential Difference across either air or a vacuum, no electric current appears. This is sensible, since there are few movable charges in air or vacuum, so there can be no electric current. If we place a voltage across a piece of metal or across a puddle of salt water, an electric current will appear, since these substances are always full of movable charges, and therefor the “voltage pressure” causes the charges to flow. In metal, the outer electrons of the atoms are not bound upon individual atoms but instead can move through the material, and a voltage can drive these “liquid” electrons along. In salt water, the individual sodium ions and chloride ions are free to flow, and a voltage can push them so they flow as an electric current. If we stick our wires into oil, there will be no electric current, since oil does not contain movable charges. If we were to inject charges into a vacuum, then we WOULD have electric current in a vacuum. This is how CRT’s and vacuum tubes work; electrons are forcibly injected into the empty space by a hot filament. However, think about it for a second: it’s no longer a vacuum when it contains a cloud of electrons! 🙂 Maybe we should change their name to “electron-cloud tubes” rather than “vacuum tubes”, since the electron cloud is required before there can be any conductivity in the space between the plates. (But vacuum tubes already have another name, so this would just confuse things. They are called “hollow-state devices.” As opposed to “solid state devices?”


About Rob W Harrison
There is a part of my mind that stubbornly thinks about science. I have a life, job, wife and family but without my Van Der Graaf Generator life would be incomplete. I am a great believer that this amazing universe came into being through process: movement >pressure > density > mass. Maybe I believe in an non viscous ether. Anyway this is where I can share my thoughts.

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